MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said President Donald Trump had attacked black athletes exercising their free speech rights to wrap himself in the flag -- and the "Morning Joe" host was disgusted by his ploy.
The president spent much of the weekend tweeting insults at professional athletes after calling for NFL players to be punished for kneeling during the National Anthem, after calling free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick a "son of a b*tch" for protesting police violence.
"He doesn't understand the best of America, but he does understand how to bait people, whether it's race-baiting or political baiting or whatever baiting," Scarborough said. "He knew Friday night where this was going to end, and he got exactly what he wanted."
Scarborough wished he could avoid discussing the president's tweets, and the subsequent reaction, because he didn't want to give Trump the attention he obviously wanted.
"We've got to talk about it for a few minutes here, but the more we talk about it, the more we're playing into his hands," he said. "If you do that, you are doing exactly what the president wants you to do. If you fight, if you debate, if you get impassioned about this stuff, that's what the president wanted."
Scarborough said the president had successfully wrapped himself in the flag by launching attacks against black athletes.
"The most grotesque part of this is that Donald Trump has now been equated with the American flag, so a protest against the American flag is now, Sunday, was a protest against Donald Trump," he said.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski said the president's attacks were transparently racist.
"The president is putting this country in a horrible place," Brzezinski said. "If you have any question in your mind as to whether or not he is race-baiting at a certain point in time, think of Charlottesville. It will give you some clarity."