The homophobic and vulgar remark — “wannabe dictator’s butt boy” — was uttered during a Wednesday segment of “Morning Joe. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski was triggered by a less-than-impassioned response from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I understand that Donald Trump doesn’t care,” Brzezinski said to her co-host Joe Scarborough.
Moments earlier, Scarborough had spoken to a panel that included Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who described Trump’s motivation to ignore the evidence against the crown prince as financially based.
“But why doesn’t Mike Pompeo care right now? Are the pathetic deflections that we just heard when he appeared on ‘Fox & Friends’ — is that a patriot speaking?” Brzezinski continued. “Or a wannabe dictator’s butt boy? I’m dead serious. I’m asking: Are these the words of a patriot?”
The network tried to bleep out the remark but was too slow.
Brzezinski is now facing growing backlash — including criticism from President Trump — for the comment. Trump weighed in on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
It’s not the first time Brzezinski has been slammed by Trump. Last year, the president viciously attacked her on Twitter, calling her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claiming that she had recently had plastic surgery.
MSNBC representatives declined to comment on Brzezinski’s remarks — or the president’s response to them — as well as any action the network may take over the incident. Earlier this year, the network stood behind host Joy Reid after she apologized for controversial years-old blog posts about gay people and same-sex marriage.
Brzezinski was not on “Morning Joe” on Thursday morning; Scarborough, her co-host and husband, said she was at a “long-planned family event.” But the condemnation kept coming.
After Brzezinski lashed out on the show, some of her more than 850,000 Twitter followers said they found the language disturbing. Others called the epithet “despicable.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted: “Homophobic insults of the kind vomited out this morning by @morningmika have become a completely common and acceptable component of anti-Trump discourse, starting from the endless Trump/Putin gay insinuations to trash like this.”
Photographer and writer G.E. Anderson suggested other phrasing: “I was with you, @morningmika, right up to the ‘butt boy’ comment. Try ‘toadie’ or ‘lackey’ or ‘stool pigeon’ or ‘ass kisser,’ or ‘traitor,’ but maybe don’t equate homosexuality with Mike Pompeo carrying water for the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia.”
Even Donald Trump Jr. swooped in — not to champion gay rights but to make a comparison to comedian Kevin Hart, who was forced out as Oscars host after some old homophobic tweets resurfaced.
Brzezinski’s response, through Twitter, did not satisfy critics.
“Totally agree with you -SUPER BAD choice of words. I should have said “water boy” ... like for football teams or something like that. apologize to @SenatorDurbin too! SO SORRY!” she tweeted in response to Anderson.
“This is bad. Will require more from Brzezinski than a Twitterpology,” wrote David Folkenflik, a media correspondent for NPR.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Brzezinski had at least one high-profile supporter: Fox’s Sean Hannity, who said she had made a “pretty bad choice of words.” He also called Brzezinski and Scarborough “insane” — but defended her apology.
“I’m not the thought police. I’m not the speech police,” Hannity said. “And something they would never do for a Fox opinion host is ... stand up when people try to boycott, or stand up when people call for firings. I believe she’s probably sincere in her apology.”