Mika Brzezinski on success of 'Morning Joe': 'I'm the reason it's still going'

Rebecca Corey
·Writer, Reporter and Producer

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“Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski has had a long career at the influential MSNBC talk show. But although the show is named after her co-host and now-husband Joe Scarborough, she says she’s responsible for its continued success.

“I will just say: He came up with the show, I’m the reason it’s still going,” Brzezinski told the Yahoo News show “Through Her Eyes.”

“I ran the show. I managed it. I booked the show. I did everything from the get-go, and tried to make a space for this incredible voice and have him modulate that voice and develop who he is today.”

A journalist and author of the new book “Earn It!: Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond," Brzezinski says she gave Scarborough — a former GOP congressman from the Florida Panhandle — some blunt advice on how to break into the tight-knit “network community of TV people.”

“I said, ‘Sit down. Stop sucking up to everybody. You don't need to jump up and sweat all over. They're lucky to be on this show. Trust me. You are so good at what you do. I just need to make a space for you in what this world is,’” she recalled.

“And that’s what I did.”

Brzezinski began dating her future spouse while working together on “Morning Joe.” But Brzezinski’s relationship with Scarborough hasn’t been easy. She says her divorce from broadcast journalist Jim Hoffer, compounded with her parents’ failing health, took a toll on her own mental well-being. While speaking with “Through Her Eyes,” Brzezinski described periods of overwhelming sadness, including “about two years there where I would cry all the time.”

"It was really hard, and it took such a toll on my mental health,” she said. “And I came close to having a complete breakdown."

“It's not even the salacious story that people think it is. It's hard,” Brzezinski added. “In terms of Joe and where we are now, I'm so happy. But it has been a long road of a lot of things building and breaking down.”

And it’s not just her marriage to Scarborough that has attracted attention. In April, Brzezinski was criticized for coming to former Vice President Joe Biden’s defense on-air amid allegations that the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination had inappropriately touched several women.

“I went [out] on a limb because I know he’s a good man and I know he’s not a sexual predator,” Brzezinski said.

“There were so many things missing from the Biden #MeToo story,” she continued. “I mean, we had a certain number of women who made a certain number of accusations that were not actually sexual assault in any way.”

Shortly after his accusers went public, Biden released a video message saying he is going to be “mindful” of people’s boundaries going forward. But at subsequent campaign rallies, Biden has laughed off the allegations, while also telling reporters that he has “never been disrespectful, intentionally, to a man or a woman.”

Brzezinski gave a note of caution for the public.

“We can’t forget two incredible words as we go down this road and make society and the workplace better for our daughters,” she told “Through Her Eyes.” “Those words are ‘due process.’ And we can’t forget them because they’re important too.”

Brzezinski has also received backlash for her association with pundit Mark Halperin, a former fixture on “Morning Joe.” The Daily Beast published an article in May accusing Brzezinski and Scarborough of assisting Halperin’s “professional rehabilitation campaign” following multiple accusations of sexual harassment against Halperin during his tenure at ABC News.

“The headlines for all those stories were very frustrating, because they weren’t right,” Brzezinski said.

In the wake of the 2017 allegations, Halperin was fired from multiple media positions, including his role as a senior political analyst at MSNBC.

“As a human being with decent feelings about helping people, I was as worried about him as I was about his victims,” Brzezinski continued. “I talked to both sides, and I tried my best, and I failed at times. It didn't work. You know, it's complicated. It's so highly charged.”

But Brzezinski told “Through Her Eyes” that she wanted to set the record straight regarding whether she’s trying to “rehabilitate” Halperin’s television career.

“I’m not,” she said firmly. “And I don’t expect him back on our show. And I’ve got a pretty good track record of who’s allowed on our show and who’s not.”

Listen to the full episode of the “Through Her Eyes” podcast, and listen to past interviews with Queen Latifah, Aly Raisman and more from Season 1.