New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office is angrily challenging the report on MSNBC that many have called a “bombshell” in which Hoboken’s mayor charged Christie’s aides of holding back Hurricane Sandy aid until she agreed to green-light a redevelopment project. They’re on the attack against MSNBC, it’s role as an ideology-anchored news network, bias elsewhere against Christie and the accuracy of the report.
Christie’s statement — which takes issues with some of the report’s assertions — is popping up now on many (not all) websites that ran the original story. And here it is via The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin:
MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week. Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama Administration approves the next rounds of funding. The Governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she’s ‘very glad’ he’s been our Governor. It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television.
And, of course, the predictable reaction to negative stories in the way our politics works is kicking into operation here: multi-fronted attacks on Zimmer. Just wait until tomorrow when talk radio shows are on. You can almost write that script yourself. GO here to read about and watch the ad on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show.
Rubin gives a good sample of the Christie/Republican perspective on this story:
In short, the Hoboken mayor has been all over the place, claiming different things have been for retribution. With no correspondence or other documented communication with the governor, we’re supposed to take a personal diary that could have been written at any point in time as reliable? A professional news operation must be more than simply a bulletin board for partisans.
The claim is on its face somewhat ridiculous since the modest-sized town had asked for more than $100 million (!) in funds and got $70 million, according to the statement released by Christie’s office. And to boot, Zimmer made statements last summer, produced by Christie’s office, praising the Sandy relief. She also tweeted this week that she had a meeting with N.J. Transit on related issues and expressed her appreciation. If this is “retribution” every city in New Jersey should be so lucky.
Christie’s team then put out a flood of data showing MSNBC’s obsessive coverage and a string of tweets from Zimmer on the New Jersey transit situation. It also set out examples of MSNBC’s cartoonish coverage, including a sort of Democratic ad (!) against Christie.
But, in the end, you know two things will happen:
1. Democrats will assume the story is true.
2. Republicans will assume it is false.
3. Many on both sides will try to litigate it even if their side is wrong.
In reality, here is where it shows the need for a strong media in the United States. Reporters will likely follow this question about how Sandy money was given you, and ask more questions of Team Christie and Team Zimmer in the coming weeks. Christie’s attack on MSNBC — SF Gate’s headline is “Chris Christie Is Going To War With MSNBC” — will rally Republicans to his side because now it’ll be an issue of a Republican being attacked by a liberal Democratic cable channel that is the anti-Fox News. The issue — did this happen or not and who can prove it? — will become secondary to yet another episode in America’s 24/7 partisan war.
In fact, I had to revise this post: it’s already happening on the larger negative story about Christie:
Conservative activists haven’t exactly been beating the drums for Chris Christie to run for president in 2016 — many view him as too accommodating to the left and too much a creature of the Republican East Coast establishment.
But as they watch the bridge traffic scandal unfold in New Jersey, jeopardizing the New Jersey governor’s political future, some are finding that an old maxim holds true: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
In their eyes, the mainstream media is the enemy. Its unrelenting coverage of Christie’s troubles over the past 10 days is generating a surprising level of sympathy for the moderate Republican Garden Stater among some conservatives who have not been fans in the past.
“I think it’s helping with the Republican grass roots,” said Glenn McCall, a Republican National Committeeman from South Carolina. “They feel [the scandal] is being overblown. There’s some solidarity, too. It doesn’t mean, if he does run in 2016, these same people would support him. Who knows what they’ll do come that time. But at least right now, there’s solidarity around the governor.”
Christie is under fire over what appeared to be politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, a move orchestrated by aides with close ties to the governor. But some conservative activists from early-voting primary states see the nonstop coverage as one more example of a biased liberal media obsessed with covering a flailing Republican, when, in their view, a Democrat wouldn’t receive the same degree of scrutiny.
Interviews with more than a dozen establishment Republicans and conservative activists from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina revealed consistent approval for Christie’s handling of what these party loyalists view as a nonissue — even as some made clear that they haven’t necessarily embraced the moderate governor beyond that.
So, once again, it’ll be Republican conservatives and the conservative entertainment media at war with the mainstream media taking a position they might not normally take – except they want to battle the mainstream media and Democrats.
But the bottom line remains: it hurts Christie’s image and until the story is proven false it will linger. Then MSNBC will be asked for to apologize as sure as your Aunt Edna likes Jello for dessert.
But anything less than a total knock-back of this story will hurt Christie with some voters and empower Republicans who’d rather watch get three teeth pulled out than see him get the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.