A bitter cable-news feud erupted Thursday morning on Twitter, dragging multiple hosts and personalities from various networks into a heated online debate over White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s bombshell claim that she was once sexually assaulted.
“I feel very empathetic, frankly, for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment and rape. I’m a victim of sexual assault,” Conway told CNN over the weekend, before pivoting back to the Republican talking point that Ford may very well have been assaulted, just not by Kavanaugh.
At another point this week, Conway openly bashed Ford while defending President Trump mocking the professor’s testimony, suggesting that the psychology professor has been treated too kindly by lawmakers and the press.
“I was really struck by Kellyanne Conway saying that [Ford]’s been treated like a Fabergé egg,” MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski said Thursday. “That’s interesting.”
Brzezinski suggested that she believed Conway’s startling admission to have been opportunistic. “I find that fascinating actually, because Kellyanne Conway went on a Sunday show and, in the middle of making her point, she announced she’s a victim of sexual assault. Really? Oh, my gosh—okay.”
By that standard, the MSNBC host said, Conway should reveal the details of her attack to see how she—like Dr. Ford—would be treated by the public.
“So tell us your story,” Brzezinski said. “Who is your attacker? Who broke the law? Who hurt you? You seemed really uncomfortable when you let that slip out. Your voice got small, your voice cracked, you had to clear your throat. You were really uncomfortable just saying ‘I am a victim of sexual assault.’ And I say that as a victim of sexual assault myself.”
Brzezinski went on to call Conway’s admission “convenient” and, as her co-host and fiancé Joe Scarborough tried to cut in, she implored Conway to not use her assault as “a political dagger to protect this reprehensible predator of a president.”
“If women are being treated like Fabergé eggs when they announce their stories, then you go ahead and tell yours and see how easy it is, okay?” Brzezinski concluded. “That was as low as it gets.”Brzezinski’s comments sparked several of her TV rivals to accuse her of bullying Conway.
CNN host Chris Cuomo, a longtime morning competitor of Morning Joe’s who moved to primetime in June, swiped at Brzezinski in a now-deleted tweet: “Is this fair? Should an alleged victim be forced to come forward?”
Brzezinski quickly hit back at Cuomo, defending her comments by invoking the fact that she, too, is a victim of sexual assault.
“As a victim of a violent sexual assault myself, I would never force anyone to come forward… You need to actually read and listen to what I said,” she wrote in her now-deleted tweet. “Might be hard when you’re so quick to tweet.”
This is not the first time Brzezinski has mentioned her own sexual assault while defending her criticism of fellow survivors. After receiving backlash last fall for scolding the women who accused her friend and colleague Mark Halperin of sexual misconduct for refusing to meet with him, Brzezinski defended her remarks by invoking her own sexual assault.. She took to Facebook to write: “As a victim of sexual abuse-assault actually, I DO understand. He was never caught. I DO understand. This SHOULD be a conversation. Not anger.”
Similarly, on Thursday, Brzezinski continued her Twitter battle with Cuomo by writing that he offended her “as a competitor and a woman [a]nd as a victim of a violent sexual assault.”
She continued: “I demand an apology. This is below us. Or at least I thought it was. You should apologize.” Brzezinski later jabbed at Cuomo that it is his job to get “the facts right” rather than, in her estimation, misrepresent what she said about Conway.
Cuomo’s CNN colleague S.E. Cupp also jumped in, tweeting that Brzezinski “did the very thing that makes sexual assault victims NOT want to tell their stories. She bullied one, questioned her motives and her truthfulness and called her story ‘convenient.’ We must be better than this.”
Already knee-deep in one cable-news feud, the Morning Joe co-host shot back at Cupp, saying she should “know better than this.”
“That you would defend Kellyanne Conway defending the president for attacking Ford and then you’re going to say that when I call out hypocrisy,” Brzezinski tweeted. “That’s why victims don’t want to come out? Shame on you.”
Former MSNBC and Fox News host Greta Van Susteren also joined the cable-news spat, took to Twitter to tell Brzezinski that it is “terrible to try to force women to reveal details about sexual assault if they do not want to tell details.”
“I’d [sic] did not force. I said try being ‘the egg.’ Watch the whole thing,” Brzezinski responded. “I think it’s terrible to support the mocking of a victim — Greta! Cmon. Be honest.”
But it was Cuomo, known for never backing down from a Twitter fight, who eventually elected to end the seemingly unending multi-host melee on a reconciliatory note..
He announced that he would delete his previous tweets bashing Brzezinski, adding: “I am all about engagement and disagreement - but I am not about adding to ha [sic] politics and using victims as fodder. Ford was victimized again - by politics.”
Cuomo concluded: “I won’t add to that. I have no fight with Mika or anyone. We must be united on respecting victims.”
In what feels like a case of instant internet amnesia, Brezinski applauded the response, calling it “the best point made today” and agreed to remove her tweets as well.
Both Cuomo and Brezinski did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for additional comment.