First in a series of posts on the weekend’s spat between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and MSNBC.
On Saturday, MSNBC host Steve Kornacki mustered a significant feat of reporting on the Chris Christie bridge scandal, surfacing allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that two top Christie people warned her that Hoboken would be shafted on relief funds unless Zimmer pushed through a redevelopment plan the governor favored. Coming amid the burgeoning scandal over the closing of toll lanes on the George Washington Bridge, Kornacki’s piece got some attention. Numerous news organizations have published followup accounts; Zimmer has spoken to several of them, and she met with the U.S. attorney’s office yesterday.
Massive impact, in other words.
Denials issued forth from the Christie side. Here’s a statement from Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak: “Mayor Zimmer has been effusive in her public praise of the Governor’s Office and the assistance we’ve provided in terms of economic development and Sandy aid. What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone’s guess.”
So far, so routine. Yet Christie’s office then took another step that helped raise the profile of the Kornacki story. It issued a second statement that took after the messenger: “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.” That came from Christie spokesman Colin Reed.
The “three-minute attack ad” is a reference to a portion of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s Wednesday night show. The Christie people noted how Fox News had faced a backlash over an attack ad against President Obama in May 2012 geared toward that year’s presidential election.
There’s no challenging the facts cited by the Christie camp on this ad thing: O’Donnell most certainly did write and produce an attack ad against Christie this past week, and Fox News did indeed get hammered for its four-minute production back in 2012.
That doesn’t mean they’re one and the same, however. Here’s how then-“Fox & Friends” host Gretchen Carlson introduced the anti-Obama video: “When he was a candidate, remember, it was ‘Hope and Change.’ The president says that he is still using that slogan in the way in which he hopes to get four more years, so we decided to look at the president’s first term to see if it lived up to ‘Hope and Change.'”
When the video concluded, host Steve Doocy joined in, “Hats off to Chris White, one of the producers on our team. He’s been in a small editing room for the last couple of weeks reliving the last four years.” What you have here is classic Fox News “fair and balanced” dreck. Both Carlson and Doocy suggested that this was a “look” at Obama’s record, as if there were something even-handed about it all.
Now, for the sake of comparison, look at how O’Donnell introduced his viewers to the anti-Christie ad.
O`DONNELL: Chris Christie has already written the attack ads that his opponents will use against him when he runs for president. I actually took some of Chris Christie`s own words from his press conference last week and produced a perfectly respectable fake attack ad against Chris Christie which I will show you in tonight`s rewrite. You are not going to believe how easy it is to do this. And yes, you can try it at home.
The point of O’Donnell’s exercise was to demonstrate how easily Christie’s opponents in a possible 2016 Republican presidential primary could leverage the bridge tie-ups. After showing photos of the field of possible entrants, O’Donnell riffed:
If Chris Christie enters the race for president against these guys, they are going to hit him with attack ads on day one. They will use Chris Christie’s own words against him. Now, I’m going to show you an example of how easy it is to do that. I wrote this commercial while Chris Christie was actually still doing his press conference.
AD NARRATION: What kind of president would Chris Christie be?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I delegate enormous authority to my staff and enormous authority to my cabinet.
AD NARRATION: Could we trust President Christie’s staff and Cabinet?
CHRISTIE: I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.
AD NARRATION: Chris Christie embarrassed and humiliated New Jersey. Don`t let Chris Christie embarrass and humiliate America.
One network spends weeks producing an ad that it attempts to sneak past viewers as a “look” at Obama’s first term; another network bangs out a quick-and-easy attack ad that it introduces as an attack ad. See the difference here?