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‘He’s Going to Hit Back.’ White House Spokeswoman Defends Trump’s ‘Face Lift’ Tweets

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The White House is defending President Donald Trump’s controversial tweets about Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, which included a widely condemned comment about Brzezinski’s appearance.

“When he gets attacked he’s going to hit back,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Thursday’s press briefing. “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that he fights fire with fire.”

The President was widely criticized, even by members of his own party, after tweeting about Brzezinski and Scarborough.

“I heard poorly rated [Morning Joe] speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came . . . to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!,” Trump tweeted.

Before Trump sent the tweet, the MSNBC co-hosts were jabbing the President over The Washington Post’s report revealing that several fake Trump-themed TIME covers hang on the walls of the President’s golfing clubs. After showing a photograph of the faux cover, Brzezinski joked that Trump is “covering his hands because they’re teensy.”

Sanders, reiterating comments she had made earlier in the day on Fox News, said the President sent the tweets in response to what she called unfair coverage of himself and his administration. “The only person I see a war on is the President or anyone who works for him,” Sanders said.

“I am a woman and I’ve been attacked by this show multiple times,” Sanders continued, when asked about claims that Trump’s tweet revealed his deeper attitudes towards women. “But I don’t cry foul because of it.”

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Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com