Call it the battle of the networks … over Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
As if there wasn’t enough fireworks in the Republican presidential primary already, MSNBC will counter one of two CNN prime time town hall forums featuring the remaining GOP candidates with its own town hall — featuring Trump.
Scheduled to air Wednesday and Thursday, CNN will include Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio the first night, followed by Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and John Kasich the second night.
But MSNBC announced on Tuesday that it will hold a Donald Trump town hall on Wednesday at the same time as the first CNN event.
Which means Trump is trumping the non-Trump town hall.
Adding to the controversy is the relationship between Trump and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who will be moderating the Trump event along with “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty highlighted a Washington Post article that focused on this “awkward” relationship and included these remarks from Trump during a recent appearance on “Morning Joe” when asked by Brzezinski how his family was dealing with things:
“Everyone’s great,” responded Trump. “It was great seeing you, and you guys have been supporters and I really appreciate it.”
At that point, Trump appeared to catch himself a bit. “Not necessarily supporters, but at least believers,” said the real estate mogul.
Both Scarborough and Brzezinski were quick to assuage any fallout over the comment, but Geraghty astutely noted that CNN’s Dylan Byers “reported that NBC’s powers that be are starting to get unnerved by the Trump-Scarborough relationship.”
In background discussions, NBC News and MSNBC journalists, reporters and staffers said there was widespread discomfort at the network over Scarborough’s friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate. “People don’t like that Joe is promoting Trump,” one MSNBC insider said. Others described Scarborough’s admiration for Trump as “over the top” and “unseemly.”
And even liberals are upset with MSNBC over this.
“Look, I get it: ratings are everything, and Trump pulls ratings,” wrote Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum on Tuesday. “But surely TV executives still have a sliver of self-respect left? Were they afraid they hadn’t mentioned Trump enough in February, and he might get mad at them?”