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Biden turns to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough as calls to step down continue

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

As President Biden seeks to tamp down Democrats who say he should step aside in the 2024 race for the White House, he has turned to a stalwart ally. That's MSNBC's Joe Scarborough. Few are more supportive of Biden's presidency and his ability to serve despite concerns about his age. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now to talk about this relationship. And, David, President Biden called into "Morning Joe" just this morning, and I caught part of it, but catch us up. Tell us - how did the interview go?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, you know, Joe Biden has made "Morning Joe" his morning ritual. This morning, he called in. And, you know, he's feisty. He was animated. He was impassioned, and he was kind of defiant. And it was sort of an intense defense saying, you know, I'm the guy, and people should stick with me. What I was, of course, looking for, as well, was Joe Scarborough, as well as his cohost - and I should add his wife - Mika Brzezinski, how they treated it. And I was very struck by some of the framing of the way they approached questions. They did ask the question of the day - should you be doing this? But, you know, there was some gentle framing. Let's hear this cut, where Scarborough is about to pose a question to Biden.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MORNING JOE")

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Democrats, you believe, may now be doing the same thing that Donald Trump tried to do in 2020, and that is overthrow the popular will of Democratic voters.

FOLKENFLIK: You know, I haven't heard even President Biden go that far, even as he's, you know, defiantly defending his right to run this race. It may be he was trying to channel Biden or advise him a little bit about some of the rhetoric there.

SUMMERS: What else can you tell us about this long relationship between Scarborough and President Biden?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, it's a funny thing. Joe Scarborough came to national prominence as a Newt Gingrich Republican, you know, basically these flamethrowers going against the Clinton administration in the 1990s. He then got a second chapter of his life. He left Congress. He ultimately joined MSNBC and became kind of a centrist figure, as NBC - excuse me, MSNBC found its footing initially as potentially a liberal or centrist outfit, and then became quite liberal, indeed. Scarborough had been originally kind of receptive to Trump as a celebrity figure in New York, and then became part of the anti-Trump resistance. You know, Scarborough has defended Biden throughout his presidency and - on not only many things, but on the very question about concerns about his age. Here's how Scarborough sounded back in March.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MORNING JOE")

SCARBOROUGH: This version of Biden intellectually, analytically is the best Biden ever. And I've known him for years.

FOLKENFLIK: In recent days, he's been wavering much since the debate, but he seems absolutely adamant that Joe Biden should be able to decide this on his own terms.

SUMMERS: You know, some people out there are making the argument that MSNBC and Scarborough are just a mirror image of Fox News for Republicans. Quickly, how fair is that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, certainly, Joe Scarborough now serves as kind of a outside adviser in much the way that Sean Hannity does for President Trump. I would say two things. First, I would say it's definitely part of the Democratic firmament, and you had a couple of Biden administration aides who are now hosts on MSNBC. And at the same time, I would argue that perhaps because of NBC News being a corporate sibling, you know, it's a little bit more rooted in journalism.

SUMMERS: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: And it's more willing to admit interests against its own sympathies and rooting causes.

SUMMERS: NPR's David Folkenflik, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Folkenflik
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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