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Chris Christie and Planned Parenthood: Either misleading now or misleading then

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

John Dickerson: “The competition has gotten a little tougher between you and some of your rivals. You said Marco Rubio is trying to slime his way to the White House. When a super PAC running an ad said that you supported Common Core, you once supported an assault weapons ban, and that you donated to Planned Parenthood. Which one of those is wrong?”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R): “Well, I never donated to Planned Parenthood. So, that’s wrong.”


Dickerson: “Conservatives in New Hampshire are bringing this up. They say that you’re not strong enough on judges. They said you supported a Democrat as chief justice in New Jersey Supreme Court, and you voiced support for Sonia Sotomayor on the [U.S.] Supreme Court. What’s your response to that?”

Christie: “I didn’t voice support for Sotomayor. Secondly, on the Democratic chief justice, yeah. And I got two Republican justices in return. The fact is, that Democratic chief justice got me two Republican justices that they’ve been holding up for two years. … We now have three Republicans, two Democrats and two independents. We now have a majority of Republicans on the court for the first time in recent history. And so I think it was a pretty good trade, getting a majority of Republicans on there and otherwise, we wouldn’t have had either of those two Republicans on the court.”


Dickerson: “Let me talk about your record on assault weapons. When we last talked, you said that originally you wanted to keep an assault weapons ban, said those who wanted to get rid of it were crazy. You said, since then, you had learned as a prosecutor — you had evolved on that issue. In 2009, though, you were still a supporter of the assault weapons ban. That was after you had been a prosecutor.”

Christie: “No, what I said at the time was that I was not interested in debating or changing, because I knew I couldn’t, New Jersey’s gun laws with a Democratic legislature. If I had my choice, John, we would be a state where you could apply much more easily and receive much more easily a carry permit in our state. We are a may-issue state, not a shall-issue state. We should be a shall-issue state so people can defend themselves.” […]

Dickerson: “So the evolution is more recent than just when you were a prosecutor?”

Christie: “It’s an evolution that has gone on over time, absolutely, John.”

–three exchanges during CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Jan. 10, 2016

We wonder if Dickerson had a migraine after Christie’s spins in this interview.

Each answer during these three exchanges in the Jan. 10, 2016, interview is inconsistent with what the facts show. So brace yourselves for the ride, and let’s dig in.

The Facts

Christie on Planned Parenthood donation

In the late 1980s, Morris County elected officials (called freeholders) pulled its $35,000 annual funding for Planned Parenthood over abortion counseling, which was a part of the nonprofit’s family planning program.

The debate over women’s access to abortion became a central issue in the 1994 Morris County freeholder election, Christie’s first successful campaign for public office. When asked about his stance on Planned Parenthood funding, Christie was definitive in his answer:

“I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution and that should be the goal of any such agency, to find private donations,” Christie was quoted in a Sept. 30, 1994, Star-Ledger article, which was cited in “Chris Christie: The Inside Story of his Rise to Power,” a 2012 biography written by Bob Ingle and Michael Symons.

“It’s also no secret that I am pro-choice … But you have to examine all the agencies needing county donations and prioritize them. I would consider all groups looking for funding, but there is a limit and we have to pick and choose,” he added. (The Fact Checker reviewed the original article and the quote is accurate.)

But two decades later, Christie denies donating to Planned Parenthood. A campaign spokesperson said: “The Governor did not donate to Planned Parenthood,” and added, “There is no record of any donations from him to Planned Parenthood.”

The spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether that means Christie had misled voters in 1994.

Planned Parenthood could not say whether Christie donated to the organization, citing its policy not to disclose donor information.

[Update: Christie told The Washington Post’s opinion writer Jennifer Rubin that he may have been misquoted in the 1994 article. The reporter who wrote the article is now Christie’s Governor’s Office spokesman. Christie said: “Listen, this is a quote from 21 years ago. I’m convinced it was a misquote. Understand what was going on. In 1994-95, I was fighting against county funding of Planned Parenthood even though I was pro-choice.” Rubin added: He said he was making the case then that people could spend their own money on a cause they believed in, just as he did. He is emphatic he was not referencing Planned Parenthood specifically as the kind of cause he gave money to.]

Christie now opposes women’s right to abortions. Christie’s campaign said he has been “open and honest about the moment” that led him to become pro-life, in 1995: “Hearing the strong heartbeat of my unborn daughter 14 years ago at 13 weeks gestation had a profound effect on me and my beliefs. The life of every human being is precious.”

(This appears to be a huge victory for second-born children: Christie’s first child was born in 1993.)

Yet in 1996, Christie still described himself as pro-choice. Christie supported a Morris County Freeholder Board resolution to condemn President Bill Clinton’s veto of a bill banning partial birth abortions, the Daily Beast reported in 2015. Christie had said partial birth abortions “offended me and my sensibilities. When you take a position on choice, you don’t have that mind. … I’m pro-choice, but I think this procedure is reprehensible.”

Apparently it took a while for that heartbeat to resonate.

Christie on judges

Christie did support President Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, although begrudgingly.

Christie first opposed her nomination, saying in a radio interview during the 2009 gubernatorial primary she was “not my kind of judge.” Then, in July 2009, Christie released a statement expressing support. As Buzzfeed reported after the “Face the Nation” interview, Christie backed Obama’s nominee even though she “would not have been my first choice”:

“After watching and listening to Judge Sotomayor’s performance at the confirmation hearings this week, I am confident that she is qualified for the position of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Elections have consequences. One of those consequences are judicial appointments. While Judge Sotomayor would not have been my choice, President Obama has used his opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court by choosing a nominee who has more than proven her capability, competence and ability.”

Christie added: “This is a historic moment and her inspiring success story should not only make the Latino community proud, but all Americans.”

On “Face the Nation,” Christie defended his choice to appoint Democrat Stuart Rabner as chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, saying it was a “pretty good trade” for getting two Republican judges appointed to the court in return.

But Christie appointed one Republican, Lee Solomon, in exchange for re-nominating Rabner as chief justice. Both were nominated in May 2014 and confirmed the next month. Christie’s deal with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney ended a four-year stalemate over court nominations, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported in 2014. (The National Review found that Solomon, the conservative nominee whom Christie touted in the CBS interview, was endorsed by pro-choice groups early in his career for his views on abortion.)

Christie appointed two other Republican judges to the court, before the deal he made over Rabner’s appointment — Anne Patterson in September 2011 and Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina in September 2013. Patterson replaced a Democrat.

The New Jersey Supreme Court now comprises three Republicans, two Democrats and one independent. The seventh seat is vacant, and is temporarily filled by a Democratic judge. Christie successfully flipped one seat to Republican as governor.

Christie’s campaign noted the Republicans he appointed to the state Supreme Court, and that his attempts to appoint more Republicans were rejected by Democrats.

Christie on gun control

This was an interesting turn in Christie’s explanation about his views on gun laws. Last week, we awarded the ever-elusive Upside Down Pinocchio to Christie for flip-flopping on how his experience as United States attorney in New Jersey affected his position on gun-control laws.

To recap: In 2009, Christie said his experience as federal prosecutor for seven years shaped his moderate-to-left views on gun control, because he saw how certain gun-control measures can help take illegal guns away without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

During the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, Christie even fought back against incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s claim that Christie “stands with the NRA.” The Christie campaign called it a lie, adding Christie “supports the assault weapons ban and all current gun laws. He opposes attempts to permit conceal and carry laws in New Jersey — hardly the NRA position.”

Then, in 2016, he said the same law-enforcement experience helped him see why gun-control measures “much, much more greatly infringe on law-abiding citizens than they do anything to prevent crime.”

Christie had said in a Jan. 6, 2016, Fox News interview that he changed his mind to become more pro-gun rights, “And the biggest reason that I changed my mind was my seven years as a federal prosecutor…. I learned what the limitations are of these [gun-control] laws that people are talking about and how they much, much more greatly infringe on law-abiding citizens than they do anything to prevent crime.”

In the Jan. 10, 2016, interview, Dickerson asked Christie to clear up his 2009 comments. Christie distanced himself from attributing his evolution on gun laws to his time as federal prosecutor:

Dickerson: So the evolution is more recent than just when you were a prosecutor?
Christie: It’s an evolution that has gone on over time, absolutely, John.

The Pinocchio Test

Christie either misled voters in 1994 or is doing so now, about his private donation to Planned Parenthood. He said in 1994 that he did so, and in 2016, he says he did not make a donation. His campaign has said both that Christie didn’t make a donation, and that there is no record of his donation — which obviously are two different explanations. This type of flip-floppery in 2016 that is directly contradictory to statements he made in previous campaigns is now becoming a running theme, as shown with his change in explaining how (and to what extent) being prosecutor shaped his gun control policies.

On his support for judges, Christie again stretches the truth. He initially opposed Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor, but ultimately expressed support in 2009. He now flat-out says he “didn’t voice support” for her. He also says he appointed a Democratic chief justice to the state Supreme Court “in return” for “two Republican justices that they’ve been holding up for two years.” Maybe by “two,” he actually means “one”: He re-nominated the Democratic chief justice in a compromise deal to appoint a Republican judge to the court. Christie appointed two other Republicans to the court, and successfully flipped one Democratic seat to Republican.

Christie clearly has a problem with consistency. Instead of “telling it like it is,” Christie tells it like it might have been.

Three Pinocchios

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