The “Morning Joe” crew got heated Thursday with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) over their interview with the conservative mega-donor Koch brothers, with host Joe Scarborough insisting they did push the billionaires on issues.
McCaskill, a frequent guest of the MSNBC show, started in trying to explain the “angst” in Washington over the interview earlier this week with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire oil barons who plan to pour nearly $1 billion into the 2016 election. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) derided the interview as lightweight fluff in a fiery speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying the MSNBC hosts rolled over for “modern-day robber barons.”
“I think there was a lot of angst out here that for the first time these guys who, behind the scenes, have been pulling the levers on the wrecking ball through our democracy when it comes to Citizens United,” McCaskill said.
Scarborough cut in.
“Claire, listen, if you’re gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk and not demonize them,” he said.
“I’m not demonizing them! I’ve seen the facts!” McCaskill said.
Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, continued, accusing “you Democrats” of their fair share fueling vitriol in politics, and cited a 2011 ad that depicted a likeness of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wheeling a grandmother off a cliff.
“I’m not saying any of that is good, Joe. I’m trying to explain the angst. These guys have spent millions of dollars behind a curtain against a lot of candidates,” McCaskill responded. “I guess I was just saying that finally these guys are being interviewed, and we all have this probably unrealistic expectation that they would be asked some questions about what they’ve been up to.”
Scarborough clearly took offense, saying “I take exception” with her remark about “unrealistic” expectations for the “Morning Joe” sit-down in the Koch’s hometown. He said “every single statement” from the Missouri senator included a “barb and an insult.”
“In your last answer you just said, ‘I guess some people had the unrealistic expectation that they would actually be asked questions and pushed.’ Mika pushed them!” Scarborough said, referring to his co-host Mika Brzezinski.
McCaskill immediately started backpedaling and apologized for the remarks, saying that as a former target in the Koch’s crosshairs, it’s difficult for her to listen to a “calm conversation” with the brothers. Dark money super PACs, including David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, spent some $13 million on anti-McCaskill ads during the contentious 2012 race.
“OK,” Scarborough said.
After remaining silent for the entirety of the interaction, Brzezinski finally piped up.
“Well, yes, and I could sit there and bang them over the heads for all of you, or I could ask them, ‘Is it right to buy influence? What do you make of the fact that you were able to influence the last election?’” Brzezinski said. “If you heard the answer, they failed. It didn’t work for them. And they’re questioning whether they should take this tact again. Why would I attack that answer?”
Scarborough finally ended the tense conservation, saying, “let’s actually get into some politics.”
McCaskill fired back with the last word, laughing: “You started it! I didn’t!”
Watch the full interaction with McCaskill, with the Koch talk starting around 5:00, via MSNBC: