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Catch Claire on NBC's Meet the Press this Sunday, March 2 discussing the Pentagon's proposed budget and troop reductions with fellow Armed Services. Oct 16, and his Democratic challenger, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, face off Claire McCaskill, participate in an Oct. 8 debate on Meet the Press. "Meet the Press” asked all women in the U.S. Senate if they had #MeToo stories they felt comfortable sharing.
And instead, you would've had, I wouldn't have been part of that. And then there wouldn't have been a snide, false, misleading tweet after that saying that I was partying all night with Donald Trump, and oh, by the way, last year Donald Trump thanked Joe for his support.
And then his follow-up tweet showed that he was actually not interested in the facts. That he had a narrative, a pre-existing narrative that he wanted to push, and he pushed it. So, if, if people would just pick up the phone and call and ask, then I can answer it, and there wouldn't be an entire new layer added to a false narrative that somehow I am doing something as a reporter in my coverage of Donald Trump that hasn't been done for the past years.
Is there any point though at which you worry about optics, or is there a point at which you say, "OK, maybe I shouldn't be at Mar-a-Lago. Maybe I shouldn't be anywhere near a party --" Well, first of all, first of all, I didn't think that there would be a party going on at 7 o'clock which is a New Year's Eve party. I thought most of those things started at 9 or 10, and ended at midnight.
So first of all, I was surprised when we showed up that there were people milling outside waiting to go in. And by the way, they were milling around the pool because the doors hadn't been opened yet for the, for the place where they go in and have their dinner. Uh, but no, I do. You know, I, my kids and I had gone to Mar-a-Lago for three or four years in a row. This was before we ever dreamed Donald Trump would actually run for president. We went there last year before we imagined Donald Trump would ever be president.
And this year, there's a reason why we told the kids we couldn't go this year. And a reason why we stayed up in Jupiter, Florida, with some friends. Because there's no way I could have stayed at Mar-a-Lago, even paying full price as I always do, just because I didn't want to answer the question. But do I have any problem going and meeting with Donald Trump to try to set up a meeting?
Or do I have any problem going to meet Donald Trump and talking to him and talking to him on background as I do regularly to see what's going on in the administration and try to get information? I didn't have a problem doing that with Valerie Jarrett. I didn't have a problem doing that with Barack Obama. I didn't have a problem doing that with George W. I didn't have a problem doing that with everybody else that I cover. It's what I do. It's what journalists do. It's what people at CNN do.
It's what people at the New York Times do.
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It's what people at CBS News do. You've also talked about giving advice to Donald Trump about the debates. You said that on stage at the 92nd Street Y. Is that something you have also always done, to, you know, give advice? But at the 92nd Street Y I was telling a joke, which I shouldn't have told. I was making a lighthearted joke about something that I had said to him, which is, "Hey Donald, can you read? You are the -- you ought to consider reading more.
And I haven't seen the 92nd Street Y but I would certainly hope that the audience laughed, because it was intended to be funny. I, you know, I don't know why they call. I don't ask 'em to call. But I probably had five, six, seven presidential candidates call me this past year during the primaries asking my opinion. And you know, here's the thing. I don't tell them anything over the phone that I don't repeat on TV. You know, politicians call journalists as sounding boards. So you describe yourself as a journalist, you are obviously a pundit -- Actually, not to interrupt you, I think the better term would be analyst.
I'm a news analyst, I'm a political analyst, and I get paid by NBC to tell people what is happening and what is going to happen. That's how I see my job. And if I tell people what is going to happen or what might happen, "Donald Trump's going to win the Republican nomination," "Donald Trump has a shot of winning the general election," "Barack Obama's going to have a hard time shutting down Gitmo," "Republicans are going to win in ," whatever -- if I get those calls right, then I keep my job.
And if I don't, I lose my job. And what is, what's so interesting, Dylan, is I was criticized last fall for having Donald Trump on the show too much and supposedly enabling his candidacy. By December, I was already saying on the air that I couldn't vote for him because of the Muslim ban. And when he did what he did with David Duke, acting like he didn't know him, I said it was disqualifying. When he said what he said about Judge Curiel, I said it was racist.
And every time I was critical of him -- when he had the fight with the Khans, I was critical of that -- his approval ratings dropped. They didn't drop because I said it, they dropped because I found it offensive and a lot of Americans found it offensive.
When he, let's say when he did well though in the closing weeks or months of the campaign and everybody was saying that it was over, I said no, I don't think it is over, I think he has a shot of winning. I look at myself and maybe people will laugh at this, but I basically look at myself as somebody that is in a position that John Madden was in when he was on TV analyzing NFL football games.
John Madden may have coached for the Oakland Raiders but if a quarterback threw for four interceptions he either needed to be critical of the Oakland Raiders or he would have lost his credibility and lost his job. I'm a news analyst and a political analyst. OK, so I'll describe you as a news analyst and political analyst. But in addition to doing both the work of journalism and of punditry, according to Trump you have described the relationship between the two of you as a friendship and so has he.
A Would you now describe your relationship as Trump, would you say that you guys are friends, and then B do you worry that by being friends with Trump it makes your analysis, it raises the possibility that people might suspect you of being more favorable to Trump because of that friendship. No, I call Claire McCaskill a dear friend. I call -- called, when he was in Congress -- Charlie Rangel a dear friend. I love Maxine Waters. I could go down the list of Democrats and Republicans alike.
Bernie Sanders is a friend that I worked with in Congress, going back 20, 25 years. If Bernie did something stupid I would say it the next day that Bernie did something stupid, even though he was a friend.
If Bernie put out an incredible ad or gave a great speech, likewise I would say that he put out, you know, a great ad or gave a great speech. Valerie Jarrett is a dear friend of Mika's and mine, and she has been and she will be when she leaves the White House. Donald Trump, as I have said, has been a friend of Mika and mine for a decade, and he will be a friend, you know, I thought, you know, I wasn't so sure he was going to win the White House, but I always told him, as I've said publicly, we were friends before, we will be friends after, but Mika and I have a job to do.
And you may not like what you hear, but we're going to do it because that's what we get paid to do. So do I like being critical of Claire McCaskill?
No, I don't, and sometimes it gets rough, and sometimes I feel uncomfortable. I hate that I've been as critical of Barack Obama as I've been as far as his foreign policy towards Syria goes, because I know that really bothers Valerie Jarrett and I know we're going to be having dinner again soon, and it's always -- you know, it's a little uncomfortable on the human level, but I've got a job to do and Mika's got a job to do and if we stop telling the truth about people in politics who are our friends, that would include pretty much half the members of Congress and people in the administration.
I mean, I've been either in Washington or reporting on Washington for 25 years, for half my life. And I know people down there. I just can't make exceptions for anybody, I can't cut anybody any slack, because if I do, then the audience will pick up on it. We don't have any teleprompters. There's no way to neatly write our way through a problem with somebody that we know. So, I mean, you know, it's interesting, I got attacked in and for being such good friends with Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod from bloggers on the right.
But, you know, even David Axelrod told me a great story that someone in his communications department said, "Why are you friends with Joe Scarborough? He's so tough on the president. I guess Trump understands. That we have to call it like we see it, because that's why we get paid and that's how we pay our bills and that's how we pay our kids' education.
So do you ever have second thoughts, that maybe because you cover and analyze these people, that you shouldn't be friends with Claire McCaskill, that you shouldn't be friends with Donald Trump, or do you think that more journalists, including your critics on Twitter, should work harder to become friends with the people they cover? I don't -- you know, I can't give advice for other people.
It certainly helps to know, I say this as a former politician, it certainly helps for members of the press to know the people that they are covering. I do wonder, though, whether -- I don't wonder, I know -- some people do allow that to impact their coverage, some people do allow the desire for access to, especially at the beginning of administrations, and you noticed this at the beginning of the Obama administration, at the beginning of the Bush administration, suddenly there were all these rosy profiles on Karl Rove and Rahm Emanuel, because people wanted access.
I suspect that Reince Priebus will have a couple of glowing cover stories, I know Jared Kushner already has, for access. But I think it's up to the individual reporters, whatever they're more comfortable with. We're very fortunate that we can be straight and we can be blunt and people still come on our show, because it's a show that a lot of influencers watch.
So we're in a pretty unique position, fortunately. So I don't want to be telling other people what to do. I will say, though, that few people have questioned Andrea Mitchell's integrity or Bob Woodward's integrity or Tom Brokaw's integrity and those are people who were quite comfortable -- I could say Katharine Graham's integrity, Ben Bradlee's integrity, and all those people were people who were comfortable around the subjects they covered, and I believe for the most part called it straight.
I suppose I could go back to school and try to be an accountant but I can't, I can't erase my friendships with everybody from Tom Coburn to Maxine Waters. You know, I've got as many Democratic friends in Washington, probably more Democratic friends in Washington, than I have Republican friends. And so when Elijah Cummings comes on and I talk about my good friend Elijah, then that's great -- but, you know, Elijah's somebody that I worked with really well, we did a lot of committee work together, and I absolutely love the guy, but when he was critical of James Comey after lavishly praising James Comey, we played that clip.
And did I flinch a little bit? Yes, I flinched a little bit. But I was like, "Eh, Elijah has to know it's my job," and sure enough he did and he came back on.
I suppose there's some people that might get offended by it, but I -- anybody that watches the show knows that we're pretty tough on all sides.
So I think then we can end here, and you've been extremely generous with your time, especially for someone who you don't feel has always treated you fairly. It seems to me like there are two different visions here of what journalism, or what the role of someone who has the show that you have are supposed to be.
There's your view, which is that you're in the game, you are close to these people, you have friendships with some of these people, but you will call it the way that you see it and you will do that as an analyst and you will do it bluntly and that viewers can trust that your friendship will not color your coverage.
There is another view First of all, on that view, though. What a lot of people on Twitter seem to overlook is that has been the norm. That is the rule. Right, I know those examples. And those are great examples -- and, look, they're brand-name journalists who are familiar to everyone. That said, a lot of the journalists today, from places like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, elsewhere, don't view what you're doing as journalism, they see it as coziness and access.
I do not go out and socialize with politicians as much as Elisabeth Bumiller and other members of the New York Times socialize with politicians. I do not go to dinners and charity events and other functions with politicians as much as all of these people who work for news agencies that you just mentioned do.
That is one of the more maddening aspects of it, that actually Mika and I on the grand scale of socializing with people we cover probably come in in the like 3rd percentile compared to all of those reporters that I've mentioned, and a lot of reporters from the news agencies that you mentioned.
I will say it again: I don't do that! Mika doesn't do that! We do our job and for the most part we go home and we hang out with our kids. And why, in that case, if so many people do it, if everyone does it, why aren't there pictures of all sorts of different reporters being photographed with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on New Year's Eve? Why aren't there stories of other journalists having a brief meeting with Donald Trump in his hotel room on the night of the New Hampshire primary?
Why does it always come back to you? Well, you say it always comes back to me.
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And a lot of the stories -- it did start with you, to be really honest. You're now generalizing, and you're now saying why is it that this -- I mean, you know that the story suggesting that I was a part of the New Year's Eve party was false. You also know -- I haven't written that story. You also know that the subsequent tweet that started all of this, saying that I was, quote, "partying," with Donald Trump all night was false. You also know -- You know I wasn't the author of those -- you know I haven't tweeted that.
Oh, I know that.
But I'm saying, though, you're asking though specifically about, "Why are people making such a big deal about it? And you're asking me to explain why somebody mischaracterized what I was doing at Mar-a-Lago a couple of days ago. I think the question actually should be, "Why didn't you pick up the phone and call Joe and Mika and ask them why there were there?
Why did you write a tweet that was false without having the facts? Well, Maggie Haberman wrote the story. And, uh, you know who, who sent the tweet saying that I was partying with Donald Trump all night. So those were false. So I'm not exactly sure why you're asking me to explain why they misrepresented what I had done, just like it was misrepresented a year ago that I was watching returns with Donald Trump, which became a narrative that people believed.
To be clear about the record, I never said that you were watching returns with Donald Trump. But however -- I guess what I'm wondering, I'm not suggesting that the fact that you have become the centerpiece of this story suggests therefore that there is something specific that you are doing that is wrong, but it is interesting to me, and it goes back to this question of optics and perhaps this question of bias, if this has been going on for so long, if there are the Ben Bradlees and the Andrea Mitchells and the Chris Matthews, what is it about you that's so different?
And I've asked you that before and you said it had to do with bias towards Trump, do you think it also has to do with a bias towards you? And Fareed Zakaria, and -- no, it's not a bias toward me. Nobody complained about the fact that Mika and I went into the Oval Office and spoke to Barack Obama for an hour and a half off the record, or that Mika and I held fundraisers for David Axelrod and his wife's charity, or that Valerie Jarrett and Mika and I would have dinners regularly, once a month for most of the administration.
So, so you tell me what's different. Why is it that nobody cared when I had access with the Obama administration?
Nobody cared when I had access with the Bush administramtion, nobody cared that I was personal friends with senators on the Democratic and the Republican side or House members on the Democratic or the Republican side.
It's not -- I've been doing the same exact thing at this show for nine years. It started in the campaign! So you tell -- Yeah. So the answer is -- You tell me what's changed when I actually spent more time with the Obama people than Mika and I have spent with Trump.
So the answer in your mind is Donald Trump is the difference. Well, if somebody reads the transcript to this interview, and looks at it fairly, I think there's no other conclusion, that this is about Donald Trump more than this is about Mika or myself. Because we have been doing the same exact thing for nine years on this show. And yes, if you wanna criticize this show and say that we were too chummy with the Obama administration and it was too much like a club and it was straight out of "This Town" by, um, snaps fingers Leibovich.
You can say that. If you wanna criticize us for our chumminess with the Obama administration, and with Donald Trump, OK, let's have that debate. I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about -- No, sure, sure.
Let's have that debate. But you just can not say that what we're doing is any different than what we did in the early years of the Obama administration or what Fareed Zakaria has been doing for eight years with the Obama administration or what Thomas Friedman has been doing for eight years with the Obama administration.
I'm glad they had access, and I'm glad to know that when Thomas Friedman's writing a column he's actually talked to Barack Obama and has a better understanding of his thinking. Mark Halperin went on Trump's plane one time and you seriously would have thought that he committed the gravest journalistic sin that's ever been. Jun Voted YES on factoring global warming into federal project planning.
Aug Voted NO on prohibiting eminent domain for use as parks or grazing land. Jan No EPA permits required for forest road runoff. Apr Strengthen prohibitions against animal fighting. Jan Permanent crime database for volunteers with kids. Oct US should create respect abroad, not just fear. May Two-state solution despite Israeli settlements on West Bank. Jan Allow travel between the United States and Cuba.
May Voted NO on promoting free trade with Peru. Dec Extend trade restrictions on Burma to promote democracy. Aug Supports line-item veto to limit spending. Sep Voted NO on Congressional pay raise. Jul Prohibit voter intimidation in federal elections. Mar Require Internet disclosure of all earmarks. May Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures. Jul Matching fund for small donors, with debate requirements. Feb Public financing of federal campaigns by voter vouchers.
Feb Repeal automatic Congressional pay raises. Apr Voted NO on allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains. Mar Opposes annual limit on federal Medicare spending. Sep Expand Medicare for people, not for drug companies. May Negotiate for lower Rx prices and reimportation. May Uncovering Medicaid waste reduces cost of medicine.
May Voted YES on regulating tobacco as a drug. Mar Voted NO on allowing tribal Indians to opt out of federal healthcare. Apr Establish a national childhood cancer database. Apr Disclose payments from manufacturers to physicians. Aug Voted YES on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months. Dec Improve mental health care benefits for returning veterans. Mar Exempt Veterans Affairs from federal hiring freeze.
Jan Restore habeas corpus for detainees in the War on Terror. Aug No amnesty for illegal immigrants; no guest workers. Aug Voted YES on continuing federal funds for declared "sanctuary cities". Mar Voted NO on comprehensive immigration reform. May Voted YES on extending unemployment benefits from 39 weeks to 59 weeks. Jun Voted NO on terminating legal challenges to English-only job rules.
Dec Voted YES on restricting employer interference in union organizing.
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Mar Ban discriminatory compensation; allow 2 years to sue. Nov Clinton was great leader, but I don't want daughter near him. Jan Voted with Democratic Party Sep Hastert should resign his speakership for a cover-up. Oct Lifelong Missouri resident from Missouri family.