Voicemails Reveal Donald Trump’s Cozy Relationship With Supposedly Liberal Media

By Ashley Feinberg & Andy Cush
Gawker (3/4/16)

Early Thursday morning, Gawker received an anonymous email with an attachment that purported to contain recordings from Donald Trump’s voicemail inbox. Among the recordings were messages left for Trump by various celebrities—most notably, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Tamron Hall.

While Gawker was unable to independently verify their authenticity, the recordings certainly appear to be genuine. In addition to those from the MSNBC personalities, there were messages from longtime Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and boxing promoter Don King, all of whom spoke to Trump in a friendly and familiar manner.

Donald Trump’s primary rivals for the Republican nomination, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have both called on Trump to authorize The New York Times to release a transcript or recording of an interview he conducted with the newspaper, a portion of which was off the record. They think the recording will reveal that Trump is not the version of himself he presents to Republican voters—politically incorrect and unafraid of offending liberal elites—but in fact that the authentic Trump is a creature of elite Manhattan society, who counts among his personal friends many members of the decadent liberal media, and whose natural habitat is an Upper East Side cocktail party. As Cruz has put it, Trump has “New York values.”

Favor-trading pals

These voicemails buttress that argument. They indicate that Trump maintains friendly personal relations with members of the elite political press, even as he demonizes them. While Trump and some of his journalistic interrogators play oppositional roles on the public stage, the voicemails suggest that they are in fact favor-trading pals when the cameras are off.

Though we could not determine the exact dates of the messages, several of them make references to the events of the 2012 presidential campaign season, including those left by a woman who identifies herself as “T Hall,” apparently MSNBC’s Tamron Hall. In one message, Hall says “I’m on my way to Kentucky to cover the vice presidential debate,” a likely reference to the 2012 debate between Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate at the time. Hall covered that debate from Kentucky for MSNBC.

The congenial tone of the messages to Trump stands in contrast with the aggressiveness with which Hall has covered his 2016 presidential run. On Sunday, Hall engaged Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson in a heated, lengthy exchange about the candidate’s refusal to disavow former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke’s support. “There are those who believe here that someone got to Donald Trump and said, ‘You need this vote. You need some of the angriest parts of this party to put you through,’” Hall said to Pierson.

Previously, Hall pressed Trump himself on the contradiction of identifying himself as a Christian while using words like “pussy” to refer to his opponents. “Who is the real Donald Trump? Is he the guy saying the P-word where he knows he can get away with it at this raucous rally? Or is he the guy thumpin’ the Bible because he needs that group? And then will he be the guy later in a general election who becomes the New York liberal that Ted Cruz says you are really hiding under your suit?” she asked.

Gucci discount

She might have added an additional option: The guy who did a favor for Tamron Hall. In one of the voice messages, she tells Trump that she was “happy I took your advice” and met with someone named “Matt.” The meeting went well, she says: “I celebrated by going to Gucci, and I’m going to use your discount, because there’s a green dress that’s like $3,000, and I need a discount bigger than the one—my discount.”

A source familiar with the matter explains that Trump has a longstanding discount with Gucci. Trump is the landlord of the retailer’s store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, in the Trump Tower—a fact he mentioned on Thursday, when he claimed, not for the first time, that he has a store that is “worth more money than Mitt [Romney].”

At the close of the Gucci message, Hall says, “I hope you’re bracing for Romney to get his butt whipped tomorrow by Obama,” indicating that it was also left during the 2012 campaign season.

In another message, she expresses her disapproval of an unnamed YouTube video with which Trump was apparently associated. “I saw the YouTube video today. I wanted to chat with you about it, since you know that I’m a huge fan, and I think the world of you. But I think that thing today was not good—not becoming of who I think you are as a person, as a statesman, like your award. I just thought it was just kind of crummy,” she says. (The award to which the caller referred may have been the Sarasota Republican Party’s “Statesman of the Year,” which was awarded to Trump in 2012 and again in 2015. It’s unclear which video Hall is referring to, though in October 2012, Trump released this “major announcement” on YouTube, in which he demanded the release of President Obama’s birth certificate, college records, and passport information.)

The hackers released four voicemail messages from Hall. Taken together with her interviews, they suggest an anchor who has two relationships to Trump—a friendly personal one and an antagonistic journalistic one. To her credit, Hall’s apparent friendship with Trump hasn’t stopped her from covering him critically and aggressively. It’s not clear that all of her colleagues can say the same thing.

Voices belonging Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, also appear in one message, the date of which is not clear. The message suggests that Trump has contributed to some sort of public or private charity event involving children.

BRZEZINSKI: Hi, Donald. It’s Mika and Joe calling. Say hi, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: Hey there, Donald. How you doing?

BRZEZINSKI: We’re just leaving you a message because we’re trying to get in touch with you, but you must be, like, on your jet or something. We’d love to talk to you, so call one of us. What’s your other number, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH: I’m at [REDACTED]. And the kids want to scream “Thank you,” to you, Donald. Say, “Thank you, Donald.”

CHILDREN: Thank you!

SCARBOROUGH: We are so, so grateful for everything, Donald, and we just want to call you and tell you how much it means to us.

BRZEZINSKI: It was amazing. Thank you, Donald. Hope to talk to you soon. Bye.

(We have redacted the voices of the children from the audio presented above.)

Update: In a series of tweets, including one which he deleted, Scarborough confirmed that the voice is his, and that that the message was related to a charitable donation from Trump. …

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