In a deeply divided capital, Mr. Trumpâs attack managed to unite lawmakers of both parties in condemning his remarks, and news organizations (even Trump-friendly ones) also rebuked the president. And the personal nature of his attack on Ms. Brzezinski revived the controversy over Mr. Trumpâs attitude toward women.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday, Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough, who are engaged to be married, said Mr. Trumpâs tweets represented a âcontinued mistreatment of womenâ and they underscored that theme on their show as well.
âIâm concerned about the messages that are being sent by this president,â Mr. Scarborough said. âYou have women who are being constantly degraded.â
âIt is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women,â they wrote. âFrom his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing womenâs genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children.â
The White House did not explain what had prompted Mr. Trumpâs outburst, but a spokeswoman said the president was entitled to fight back against those in the media who he felt attacked him unfairly.
Perhaps the most striking part of the two hostsâ pushback was their claim that the White House tried to leverage a planned article in The National Enquirer to get them to apologize to the president for their comments about him.
Mr. Scarborough said they were repeatedly told that if they called the president and apologized for their coverage, Mr. Trump would intervene on their behalf. âWe ignored their desperate pleas,â they wrote.
After the show aired, the fight moved to Twitter. Mr. Trump fired a volley, tweeting that he had watched the âlow rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long timeâ and called it âFAKE NEWS.â
Referring to Mr. Scarborough, he wrote: âHe called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad showâ
Mr. Scarborough responded within minutes, denying Mr. Trumpâs claim.
In a statement, The National Enquirer defended an earlier story on Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough and said it had âabsolutely no involvementâ in any discussions between the co-hosts and the White House.
âAt no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story,â said Dylan Howard, the vice president of news for American Media Inc., the Enquirerâs publisher.
In their op-ed, Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough disputed the details of Mr. Trumpâs Thursday tweets.
His claim that Ms. Brzezinski was bleeding from a face-lift was âa lie,â they wrote, adding: âMr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable.â
They wrote: âAnd though it is no oneâs business, the presidentâs petulant personal attack against yet another womanâs looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a face-lift. If she had, it would be evident to anyone watching âMorning Joeâ on their high-definition TV.â
Ms. Brzezinski did have a âlittle skin under her chin tweaked,â but it was not a secret, they wrote.
The co-hosts were scheduled to be on vacation on Friday but delayed their plans to appear on the show to respond to the presidentâs tweets.
Until recently, the president had a friendly relationship with the hosts, who were criticized during the campaign for their closeness to the candidate.
In recent months, however, the pair have excoriated Mr. Trump on the air, denouncing his behavior and questioning his mental health â criticisms the president views as a personal betrayal, according to a senior administration official.
Last month, Ms. Brzezinski and Mr. Scarborough told Vanity Fair that the president had offered to officiate at their wedding and host it at the White House or Mar-a-Lago. (Ms. Brzezinski said her answer to that was, âIf it werenât Trump, it might be something to think about.â)
Mr. Trumpâs invective threatened to further erode his support among Republican women and independents, both among voters and on Capitol Hill, where he needs negotiating leverage for the stalled Senate health care bill.
A spokeswoman for the president, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, on Thursday urged the news media to move on. She argued during the White House briefing that Mr. Trump was âfighting fire with fireâ by attacking a longtime critic.
A slew of Republicans criticized the presidentâs comments.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tweeted: âStop it! The presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.â