Joe Scarborough, host of the MSNBC show Morning Joe, reportedly feels disrespected by Marco Rubio, the one presidential candidate who has not appeared on his show. In an email to the Rubio campaign which MSNBC shared with the New York Times, one of the show’s producers wrote that “Joe sees this as disrespectful given their past relationship.”
The thing is, Scarborough and Rubio do not have much of a “past relationship.” From 1995 to 2001, Scarborough served in the House as a Republican congressman from Florida. Rubio entered the Senate a decade later, in 2011. As Scarborough himself wrote in Politico on Saturday, there is no “backstory” to his relationship with Rubio — he’s never met the man. “Though we both come from the same state, Florida is a really big state,” Scarborough wrote.
But while the two have never shaken hands, they may share some of the same ambitions. “Almost every election cycle since Joe left Congress, there is talk that he should run for U.S. Senate, governor, or something else,” former Florida political reporter Brian Crowley told the Times. When Rubio became the Florida house speaker, Crowley added, “he started crowding that space.”
Scarborough is known to think highly of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and had ties to Charlie Crist, whom Rubio defeated in the 2010 Senate race. Before Rubio entered that race, Scarborough had considered a run for the senate himself, and the TV host encouraged speculation he might enter the presidential race this cycle.
This unspoken rivalry might have piqued Scarborough’s envy. As the Times noted, Scarborough has been one of Rubio’s fiercest critics from the beginning, attacking the senator on a wide variety of issues, from his legislative record to his fashion choices. In an interview with the Times, Scarborough called the senator “programmed” and “risk averse.”
When Rubio slipped up at the Republican debate on Saturday, the TV host was quick to claim victory. “I’ve been criticized for saying Marco looks too robotic, too prepackaged, and too young,” Scarborough wrote the Times. “But everything I’ve said alone for months is now being repeated this morning by everyone in the political world. My critiques weren’t personal: they were right.”
Scarborough famously pressured former senator Rick Santorum — who pulled out of the presidential race last week, backing Rubio — to name one Rubio accomplishment. When Santorum failed, Jeb Bush promptly co-opted that video clip for an attack ad.
The Morning Joe host insists there is no bad blood between him and Rubio — when asked about his producer’s email, the TV host merely brushed it off as “that’s a booker being a booker and being aggressive.”