US President Donald Trump assailed a TV news host in highly personal terms on Thursday, calling her “crazy” and alleging she had been bleeding at one point from a facelift, in a Twitter attack that drew strong criticism including from fellow Republicans.
Mr Trump, who often decries what he calls “fake news” in the American media and who this week attacked CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post, took fierce aim on Thursday at the hosts of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe,” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
The Republican President called Brzezinski — a journalist and daughter of former White House national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski — “low IQ Crazy Mika” and said she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she visited one of his properties around New Year’s Eve.
He referred to former Republican US congressman Scarborough as “Psycho Joe”.
@realDonaldTrump: I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
@realDonaldTrump: …to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
Mr Trump is known for his prolific Twitter habit, which includes mocking attacks on critics and rivals, but his tweets on Thursday drew a particularly strong response.
“It’s a sad day for America when the President spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job,” MSNBC’s communications office said on Twitter.
Republican lawmakers and others sharply rebuked Mr Trump.
The tweets “represent what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, while another Republican senator, Ben Sasse, called Mr Trump’s remarks, “beneath the dignity of your office”.
“I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said of Mr Trump’s tweets.
The “Morning Joe” program aired live telephone interviews with Mr Trump during the 2016 presidential race, but its hosts have turned increasingly critical of him since he took office in January. On Thursday morning’s show, Brzezinski excoriated the Trump administration and said its officials should not act “lobotomised” because they are so scared of the President.
Scarborough and Brzezinksi are engaged to be married. During the January meeting at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, the President offered to host their wedding and even officiate it, the two said in an interview in Vanity Fair published in May.
Mr Trump has been critical of Scarborough and Brzezinski’s show but Thursday’s attack was especially harsh. (Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)
White House defends tweets
The White House said Mr Trump did not go too far in the tweets.
“I don’t think that the President has ever been someone that gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News Channel.
“People on that show have personally attacked him many times,” Sanders added.
“This is a President who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media and the liberal elites within the media, or Hollywood or anywhere else.”
Latest attack on media
The remarks were an escalation of Mr Trump’s long-standing criticism — as a candidate and then as president — of the news media, which he once called an “enemy of the American people“.
A wealthy businessman and former reality TV star with no previous experience in government, Mr Trump has been quick to respond to criticism of his presidency, lashing out at the media for its coverage of probes into potential collusion between his campaign team and Russia, and other matters.
He has sometimes singled out individual journalists, including a high-profile attack while he was running for office on former Fox News and current NBC journalist Megyn Kelly. That included a comment about “blood coming out of her wherever,” which was widely interpreted as a reference to menstruation.
Mr Trump has been criticised in the past for his comments about women. His attack on Kelly came after she asked him during a presidential debate about his previous references to some women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals”.
Mr Trump issued an apology last October, just before the election, after a 2005 video surfaced in which he said he could grab women by their genitals whenever he wanted because he was a star.
While he has been critical before of the “Morning Joe” hosts, Thursday’s attack was especially harsh.
@MarkKornblau: Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, “it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.”
Democrats condemned Mr Trump’s tweets as an example of what they view as his sexism.
“Trump’s bullying tweets are an attack on women everywhere,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
The tweets created a new distraction as Republican senators tried to bridge differences within the party and agree on major healthcare legislation.