President Donald Trump used base terms to ridicule the looks and temperament of a female MSNBC host on Thursday while she was on air, remarks that the cable network called "bullying."
In a pair of tweets, Trump went after Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who've criticized Trump on their MSNBC show "Morning Joe." Trump claimed Brzezinski was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" and said he refused to let her join him at his South Florida estate.
Some Republican politicians quickly expressed their displeasure with Trump's new tweets, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling his attack "not appropriate" and several senators saying it was beneath the office of the president. A spokeswoman for Trump defended the tweets as hitting back at constant criticism he receives from "Morning Joe."
"I heard poorly rated @Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came ... to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
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The "Morning Joe" hosts spent time at the resort, a visit Scarborough said was to arrange a Trump interview.
It was the latest attack on a woman's looks from the president, who had to apologize during his campaign for lewd comments he made about women while taping an interview with "Access Hollywood" in 2005. In that tape he boasted of grabbing women by their genitals and said that "when you're a star ... you can do anything."
"I pledge to be a better man tomorrow," Trump said in an apology video.
The tweets were posted Thursday while Brzezinski was on air, but she did not respond as the show finished. She later tweeted a picture of a Cheerios box that displayed the message "Made For Little Hands."
The size of Trump's hands has been the subject of some ridicule since it was first brought up in a satirical magazine in 1988. Trump addressed the joke in a presidential primary debate in March 2016, saying, "there's no problem."
Asked for comment, MSNBC spokesperson Lorie Acio gave this statement: "It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job."
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White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued repeatedly Thursday that the president has been subject to scathing attacks on "Morning Joe" and elsewhere in the media, and that he had a right to fight back.
"I think that he's been very clear that when he gets attacked, he's going to hit back," Huckabee Sanders said at the daily press briefing. "I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire."
Indeed, about two hours before the president's tweets, Brzezinski said on "Morning Joe" that "it's not normal behavior" for any leader to be tweeting about people's appearances, bullying, lying, undermining managers and throwing people under the bus.
Saying that if any business executive behaved the way Trump does, "There would be concern that perhaps the person who runs the company is out of his mind."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump's tweets, "blatantly sexist." The president, she added, "happens to disrespect women ... it's sad."
On their Wednesday show, Brzezinski and Scarborough roundly mocked Trump for displaying in several of his golf resorts a fake Time Magazine cover featuring himself.
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"That's needy," Brzezinski said on the show.
Huckabee Sanders said Trump receives "constant attacks," and noted "I'm a woman that's been attacked by this show, but I don't cry foul because of it."
She did not directly answer a question about Trump's longtime allegation, made without evidence and soon debunked, that former President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, saying only that "when the president gets hit, he's going to hit back harder."
About 15 minutes before the president himself tweeted, White House social media director Dan Scavino similarly attacked the hosts.
"#DumbAsARockMika and lover #JealousJoe are lost, confused & saddened since @POTUS @realDonaldTrump stopped returning their calls! Unhinged," Scavino wrote on his personal account.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Ben Sasse were among the politicians who reacted on Twitter by saying the president's statements were beneath his office.
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"Please just stop," Sasse said. "This isn't normal."
"This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media," Collins tweeted. "We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility."
Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., told NBC News he wasn't surprised but was disappointed by the tweets. "It's hard to understand and not presidential," he said.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., responded as well: "This is not okay. As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women."
Brzezinski is the daughter of famed diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died in May, weeks after she and Scarborough announced they were engaged.
They told Vanity Fair that Trump offered to marry them at Mar-a-Lago or the White House.
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"The White House that I grew up in was an amazing place. If it weren't Trump, it might be something to think about," Brzezinski told the magazine. "The mental picture is just fascinating, but the reality is just . . . no. No, no, no, no, no."
Trump's charged "blood" language about Brzezinski echoed his past criticism of former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who Trump denigrated during the presidential campaign. Trump accused Kelly of having had "blood coming out of her whatever" when she asked him a tough question as a debate moderator.
While many people took the comment to refer to mood swings associated with a woman's period, but he said he was referring to her nose.
Kelly now works for NBC News, whose parent company, NBCUniversal, owns both MSNBC and this station.
Earlier this week, Trump caught flak online for calling out Irish reporter Caitriona Perry during a phone call with the country's leader, saying, "She has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well."
Perry called the exchange in the Oval Office a "bizarre moment."
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First lady Melania Trump pledged during the campaign to combat cyberbullying. Her spokeswoman declined to comment to NBC News Thursday about the tweets targeting Brzezinksi, and said of the cyberbullying initiative that the first lady is "continuing to be thoughtful about her platform and looks forward to more announcements" in the future.