Joe Scarborough walks back defense of Tony Dungy

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough defended Tony Dungy from recent criticism, but did so without being aware of the former NFL coach’s anti-transgender tweet.

On Friday, Dungy spoke at the anti-abortion March for Life in Washington, D.C. and controversially referenced Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest to make a point about abortion. Monday morning, Scarborough defended Dungy’s appearance at the pro-life event, seemingly unaware as to why the head coach was harshly criticized.

“Tony Dungy, great former coach, and great analyst, he decided to go to the pro-life march in Washington,” Scarborough said on his MSNBC show Morning Joe. “There were columns written about him, comparing everybody at the pro-life march to Q-Anon, to Truthers, to January 6th types.”

“No. Tony Dungy has talked about his beliefs, he’s talked about his faith, and he’s pro-life. 40 percent of Americans, according to the latest Gallup poll, are pro-life. Do we push him to that side of the conversation? Or do we figure out a way to let a guy have his own beliefs, that 40 percent of Americans have as well, and still be on TV without catching a lot of crap because he decides he wants to go to a pro-life march?”

But Dungy didn’t just catch “a lot of crap” because he decided to go to a pro-life march. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has spoken at pro-life events without being compared to Truthers or Q-Anon conspiracy theorists. Dungy caught “a lot of crap” because he used Damar Hamlin’s life-threatening injury and amazing recovery to push his own personal views on abortion.

“Those prayers were answered. Damar’s recovering now, he’s home, he’s been released from the hospital. But what’s the lesson in that? An unbelievable thing happened that night in a professional football game with millions of dollars of ticket money on the line. That game was canceled. Why? Because a life was at stake,” Dungy said in his March for Life speech. “And people wanted to see that life saved. These are people who aren’t necessarily religious, they got together and called on God. Well, that should be encouraging us, because that’s exactly why we’re here. Because every day in this country, innocent lives are at stake. The only difference is they don’t belong to a famous athlete, and they’re not seen on national TV. But those lives are still important to God and in God’s eyes.”

The recent backlash and calls for Dungy to apologize had nothing to do with him speaking at an anti-abortion event, he was criticized for using Hamlin’s story for personal motives, which Scarborough failed to note. Dungy’s recent criticism was also jumpstarted by pushing anti-transgender narratives, in a since-deleted tweet.

Last week, the Daily Wire tweeted about Minnesota legislators considering a bill to require menstrual products be supplied in boys’ bathrooms. Dungy replied with a debunked myth about litter boxes in schools, a false narrative perpetuated to harm transgender equality.

“That’s nothing,” wrote Dungy. “Some school districts are putting litter boxes in the school bathrooms for the students who identify as cats. Very important to address every student’s needs.”

Dungy has since deleted and apologized for the comment. But in his initial defense of the former NFL head coach, Scarborough appeared to be unaware of the controversial tweet that was posted just a few days earlier, and his comments on Hamlin. Defending Tony Dungy from controversy on live TV without being aware of what caused the controversy is a bad look. To his credit, however, after learning of Dungy’s anti-transgender tweet, Scarborough quickly amended his earlier support.

“A couple of follow-ups, first of all, you said we have to admit when we make mistakes. Well, let’s just say when I talked about Tony Dungy, it was incomplete,” Scarborough admitted later in the segment. “I had read tweets about how he had been attacked for going to the pro-life march, but also, Alex just sent me this: ‘Tony Dungy apologizes after spreading debunked anti-transgender conspiracy theories.’”

“So, there’s two sides to that story. Or actually, multiple stories this weekend about Tony Dungy, so let me put that out there.”

This wasn’t the first time Dungy made a controversial statement or aligned with leaders who have opposed the LGBTQ community. But somehow, Scarborough missed Dungy’s most recent anti-LGBTQ controversy before deciding to stake his support for the former head coach and current NBC analyst. Scarborough and Dungy both work for divisions of NBC.

[Morning Joe, Mediaite]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to