The bridge scandal started out as a test for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Now it has become a test for the media. MSNBC, which long ago stopped being a news outlet in the sense of going out to find facts and is largely indistinguishable from Democratic Party talking points, has been going 24/7 since the bridge story broke. No surprise. But then Saturday MSNBC decided to throw even the pretense of journalism overboard.
It ran with a claim from Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken claiming Christie withheld Sandy relief funds to gain approval for a business development. Christie’s office put out a quick denial of the allegations, as did the developers. MSNBC says the mayor has a personal diary that corroborates her claim — a diary that has yet to be released, reviewed or verified. Rather than, you know, investigate the story, MSNBC threw it out on the air hoping others would follow. The Hill had the good sense to note this mayor had changed her story from earlier claims that the funds were denied for not backing him for governor.
Then Saturday afternoon Christie’s team had enough. It put out a written statement:
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.
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.
The test for the mainstream media and for medic “critics” (often merely on the prowl for Fox News bias) is whether they find the actual scandal: The MSNBC hit-squad that does not investigate, does not make any pretense of balance or fairness and is nevertheless given legitimacy by other media elites.
This is also a lesson for conservatives in dealing with liberal media bias. You don’t whine. You present the facts, fully and fast. You present compelling evidence of bias. If the conservatives want politicians who show some backbone when under attack by phony news operations, they’d be wise to follow the Christie model.
In the meantime, Christie, in an odd way, may be lucky here. MSNBC has turned a legitimate news story (the bridge) into a vivid display of media bias. That in turn will give conservatives who might otherwise see fit to pile on pause. Do they want to be the couriers of MSNBC smears?