Scarborough, Halperin spar with Brzezinski over ‘Binder-gate’

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
Font Size:

Depending on who on what website you read, you might have thought that “Morning Joe” co-host made a grand stand for women’s rights this morning in attacking Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his comment about reviewing a binder full of women.

However, that’s not exactly what happened — or at least not without some pushback from Brzezinski’s “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough and show regular Mark Halperin of Time magazine.

On Thursday’s “Morning Joe,” Brzezinski opened the broadcast with a condemnation of Romney for his “binders” remarks

“How is that not a lie?” Brzezinski said. “Can we go there Halperin? When you say you sought out women and it turns out they were brought to you, that’s not the truth, correct? … What, us calling out facts, it shouldn’t be about that?”

What Brzezinski and supporters of President Barack Obama seem to be hung up on is whether Romney actually “sought” a binder provided by the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP) in 2002 that contained the resumes of women qualified for jobs in the new gubernatorial administration.

According to Scarborough, the words “ridiculous” and “desperation” are applicable to the whole binder attack. And he added that Obama doesn’t have a perfect record when it comes to hiring practices, either.

“This is such a ridiculous, ridiculous argument to make,” Scarborough said. “Seriously, this is all the Obama people have — ‘the binders, the binders’…No, the president’s coming out talking about binders. This is an act of desperation. Of course, I know the president says at the beginning he only wants people around him that he knew before he got there. A lot of other businesspeople when they have to fill positions, they say ‘bring me the best, bring me everybody you have.’ And they’re turning this into a huge issue.”

Scarborough said he hoped the Democrats continued using the binders comment as a line of attack, and pointed to a post-debate focus group of undecided voters on MSNBC as proof the Obama campaign’s strategy to woo women voters is flawed.

“I hope the Obama administration and I hope liberals focus on ‘binder-gate’ throughout the campaign,” Scarborough continued. “And if they do, because they have nothing else to talk about, they will find what we found at the MSNBC — did you see the MSNBC focus group? The women that were saying that they, after the second debate, were turning to Mitt Romney? Keep talking about binders. Mitt Romney’s fine.”

Brzezinski continued to insist it was “a little but insulting” that Romney couldn’t do better than “make up” a story about binders. And, as its support among women erodes in swing states, that seems to the same post-debate talking point the Obama campaign is focusing on as well.

But Halperin said despite the back-and-forth over the relevancy of the binders and his own problems with Romney’s answer, it was his hope the focus would move on to more substantial issues as the campaign season comes to an end.

“[I] totally want to talk about the economy,” Halperin said. “I totally want to talk about issues, positions and records, but don’t want to talk about binders, and don’t want to talk about a candidate debate getting the facts wrong about something that doesn’t matter as much as a lot of other things. It’s right to point out when the candidates say things that are wrong. But the issues are about who will be better for America, not about parsing every little thing.

“The president said a lot things in the debate that weren’t totally accurate either,” he continued, “But the binder thing is what is wrong with our politics. It’s like talking about Big Bird. It’s like talking about ‘you didn’t build it.’ And for the last three weeks I’d just like to talk about issues, and which candidate would be better for America. Just for three weeks.”

Follow Jeff on Twitter