Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski has apologised for calling Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “wannabe dictator’s butt boy” on air, after a viewer criticised the term as “homophobic.”
Brzezinski was criticising Pompeo for his stance on the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi on Wednesday’s episode.
The Secretary of State has been supportive of the Saudi authorities, who deny that Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2 was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Speaking on Fox and Friends on Wednesday, Pompeo reiterated President Donald Trump’s position that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a key US ally and cast doubts over reports that the secret service agency is confident bin Salman ordered the murder.
“I should have said ‘water boy’… like for football teams or something like that.”
— Mika Brzezinski
“Is that a patriot speaking?” the Morning Joe host asked on air, commenting on Pompeo’s remarks. “Or a wannabe dictator’s butt-boy? I’m dead serious, I’m asking. Are these the words of a patriot?”
Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski apologises for the “super bad choice of words”
Brzezinski’s words sparked outrage among some viewers. Photographer G. E. Anderson wrote to the journalist on Twitter, condemning her for using “as homophobic a term as I’ve heard on national morning television.”
.@morningmika just asked if Mike Pompeo is a “wannabe dictator’s butt boy,” as homophobic a term as I’ve heard on national morning television. @MSNBC tried and failed to censor it, and did not transcribe her remark in the closed captioning. #journalism pic.twitter.com/3zK7H8evjh
— G.E. Anderson (@g_e_anderson) December 12, 2018
“I was with you,” Anderson wrote tagging the Morning Joe host in the tweet, “right up to the ‘butt boy’ comment.”
Anderson provided a list of alternative words Brzezinski might have used to describe Pompeo’s conduct towards Saudi Arabia.
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“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,” he wrote.
The Morning Joe host accepted the criticism and apologised for her poor choice of words.
“Totally agree with you -SUPER BAD choice of words .. I should have said ‘water boy’… like for football teams or something like that..,” she wrote, also addressing her apologies to Senator Dick Durbin, who was on air during the segment.
Controversy over Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski mounts
While Anderson wrote he accepted Brzezinski’s apologies, dozens of other Twitter users did not think her apology was satisfactory—some even called for the Morning Joe host to be fired. Others noted that “butt boy” is a term used in Washington DC to refer to a politician’s closest aid.
“It may sound homophobic, but ‘butt boy’ is a DC term that refers to the president’s ‘body person.’ They’re literally the closest assistant to the president—if you turn around they’re attached like his butt. It’s DC’s most ‘prestigious’ low status job,” tweeted Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who referenced a 2006 article from Foreign Policy magazine as evidence of the term’s use.
“I hate to expend energy defending Brzezinski, but she was using that problematic phrase in a different way. Every modern president has had a ‘butt boy,’” Tree added in a separate tweet.
The mounting controversy caught the eye of the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. who, rather than making a point about homophobia, drew a comparison with comedian Kevin Hart, who withdrew from hosting the Oscars last week, after old homophobic tweets and jokes were unearthed.
“This is disgusting!” he wrote in a tweet. “How can Kevin Hart essentially be forced to lose his Oscar’s gig for comments he made years ago as a comedian, but Mika can make a seriously homophobic slur on a major news station, have the network try to cover it up & its not an issue? Give me a break!”
Brzezinski did not appear on Morning Joe on Thursday (December 13)—her co-host and husband Joe Scarborough told viewers she was off due to a “long-planned family event.”