Zernike, millionaire hosts can’t nail down the simplest facts: When did Governor Christie learn that access lanes had been closed in Fort Lee?
We can’t answer that question. Let’s try a different question:
In the past, when did Christie say he first learned? What has he said about this?
This question has come center stage because of David Wildstein. According to Wildstein, “evidence exists” that Christie knew the lanes were closed in real time, during the week of September 9.
Also according to Wildstein, Christie said something different at his January 9 press conference. That means Christie lied!
(Please note: The possibility that a targeted pol could have made a mistake isn’t part of this familiar game.)
According to Wildstein, evidence exists that mistakes have been made! In response to this vague allegation from this highly unreliable person, everyone went thrashing off last weekend. They were eager to join the part of the cycle in which we try to prove that the targeted pol has lied about some relatively minor point.
In order to play this familiar game, we have to know what Christie said in the past, especially on January 9. Unfortunately, our major “journalists” simply aren’t up to such tasks.
They don’t know how to establish such facts. First, consider Kate Zernike. Then, consider the gruesome Chris Matthews.
Yesterday, we documented the pitiful way Zernike has handled this very basic factual question. Again, let’s look at the three accounts she gave within 48 hours this weekend.
As anyone can see, two of these accounts contradict each other. All three seem to be false:
ZERNIKE (2/1/14): He has repeatedly said that he did not know about the lane closings until they were first reported by The Record, a North Jersey newspaper, on Sept. 13, the day a senior Port Authority official ordered the lanes reopened.On February 1, Zernike reported that Christie had made a certain statement “repeatedly.”
ZERNIKE (2/2/14): Mr. Christie had said in his January news conference that he was unaware of the lane closings until they were first reported in The Record, a North Jersey newspaper, on September 13, when the lanes were reopened, and that he had not learned until January that they had any political motive.
ZERNIKE (2/3/14): So first he said, I didn’t know until Pat Foye’s email was leaked, that was October 1. Then he said, in the two-hour press conference he said, I didn’t know about these lane closures till they were over—on September 13.
Forty-eight hours later, she was saying that he had made two different statements—that he’d contradicted himself.
In these shifting accounts, Zernike does maintain a fairly consistent account of what Christie said on January 9. Unfortunately, we can find no instance at that press conference where he says he learned about the lane closings on September 13, let alone from the Bergen Record.
To peruse the January 9 transcript, just click here. We don’t think you’ll find it either.
What has Christie said in the past? What did he say on January 9? How lucky! Last night, Zernike appeared on All In with Chris Hayes. Our brightest young host would be able to nail down this basic fact.
What did Christie say on January 9? Finally, we would find out!
Crackers, no such luck! With Zernike sitting right there with him, Hayes forgot to ask about this basic point. The pair engaged in a full interview, but Hayes never asked these basic questions:
What did Christie say on January 9? Can you provide the text?
Zernike has bungled basic facts ever since she started reporting the Fort Lee story on December 10. Based on this body of work, she is stunningly incompetent—and yet, she’s the reporter of record for this case at our most famous newspaper.
Last evening, Chris Mathews also tackled the question of what Christie has said. Predictably, his attempt to establish this basic fact didn’t end well.
It’s very rare to see Chris Matthews trying to establish a fact. As he engaged in this rare practice, he quoted or played tape of three different statements from three different dates, including January 9:
MATTHEWS (2/3/14): Governor Christie has offered a multiple choice, if you will, of responses as to when he first learned about the lane closures and what was going on generally up there.As you can see, Matthews couldn’t find Christie making that highly specific statement on January 9 either. For unknown reasons, Zernike keeps attributing a highly specific statement to Christie which he didn’t seem to make.
In his December 13 press conference, that’s December, Christie said he knew in October. Quote: "The first I ever heard about the issue was when it was reported in the press, which I think was in the aftermath of Mr.—the leak of Mr. Foye’s e-mail. I think that was the first I heard of it.” Foye’s e-mail leaked to the Wall Street Journal on October 1.
In a December 23 interview, Christie said he knew in September. Let’s listen here:
CHRISTIE (videotape): Well, I mean, I first heard about the lane closure back in September, you know, from press accounts. But, you know, this has kind of been an evolving thing. I, I—there was no like moment where I went, “Oh, wow, look at this.”
MATTHEWS: Well, it goes from September—October to September.
Now in Governor Christie’s January 9 presser, he said this:
CHRISTIE (videotape): What I can tell you is, if people find that hard to believe, I don’t know what else to say, except to tell them I had no knowledge of this, of the planning, the execution or anything about it, and that I first found out about it after it was over.
That said, Matthews thought he had a discovery. He thought he had caught Christie shifting his story around:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Well, in his statement on Friday, that’s a couple of days ago, following the Wildstein news, we got this [from Christie]: "Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer confirm what’s the governor has said all along. He had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened."Please. Christie never said he learned “when they happened.” That’s just vintage work by Matthews, am absurdly dishonest man.
And from a February 1 memo, quote: "The governor first learned lanes at the George Washington Bridge were even closed from press accounts after the fact."
So to sum it up, Christie has said that first he learned about the lane closures in October, in September, after it was over, and when they happened.
Concerning the alleged September/October contradiction, let’s make several points:
First, a minor point: The Wall Street Journal’s October 1 report would have been posted on September 30. Presumably, that fact isn’t relevant. But we’re talking about a very minor time difference here.
Second: In his statement on December 13, Christie said two key words: “I think.” He didn't state with certainty that that was when he “first heard about the issue.”
Third, and perhaps most significant: Consider what Christie actually said on December 13 about the October 1 news report concerning the email release.
Matthews and others are citing a statement attributed to Christie in a Wall Street Journal news report on January 12. The report was written by Ted Mann. This is part of what Mann reported:
MANN (1/12/14): In a news conference Dec. 13, Mr. Christie, a Republican, said he learned of the controversy after the publication of an internal email from Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Mr. Foye angrily ordered the access lanes for Fort Lee restored on Sept. 13, the fifth day of the closures. The Wall Street Journal published details of that email on Oct. 1.In that part of his report, Mann doesn’t say that Christie learned of the lane closings on October 1. According to Mann, Christie said he learned of “the controversy” that day.
"The first I ever heard of the issue was when it was reported in the press, which I think was in the aftermath of the leaking of Mr. Foye's email," Mr. Christie said at the December news conference, in which he announced the resignation of the authority's Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni amid the growing controversy. "I think that was the first I heard of it. But it was certainly well after the whole thing was over before I heard about it."
Last week, the governor indicated that he had learned of the issue earlier. "It wasn't when Pat Foye's emails—I think there was an earlier story than that," he said when asked at last week's televised, two-hour news conference why he hadn't tried to determine the reason for the Fort Lee gridlock when he first learned of it.
In the actual quotation, Christie says he learned of “the issue” that day.
The controversy—the issue—is not the same thing as the closings themselves. A person could know about the closings without knowing that there was a controversy or issue surrounding them.
Mann glossed this distinction in his report. So did Matthews last night.
The controversy broke into the press in that October 1 report about the Foye email. It's possible that Christie already knew about the closings, but learned of “the issue” that day.
What was Christie talking about on December 13? We have never found a transcript of that press conference. A person would have to examine that transcript to determine what Christie was saying.
This all turns on basic questions of fairness and professionalism. Does anyone plan to be fair to Christie? Does anyone plan to be professional in his or her journalism?
If so, it will be a first. Our press corps doesn't run on fairness or journalistic professionalism—hasn’t done so in a very long time. Our press corps runs on memorized stories in which they pursue targeted pols as part of a press corps-wide chase.
Once the chase has been established, everything goes! You can invent your basic facts, as Zernike keeps doing. You can invent your quotations. Nothing resembling logic is required.
This is the way these prehuman droogs chased after Clinton, then after Gore. This is the way they chased Susan Rice while Joan Walsh sat there saying nothing.
What has Christie said in the past about this relatively minor point? We don’t know what he said on December 13; we’d have to examine the transcript.
Concerning January 9, we have no idea why Zernike keeps offering her highly specific account of what Christie supposedly said. Here’s what Mann said in his news report on Monday, January 12:
“Mr. Christie said at last week’s news conference that he didn’t remember where he first read about the traffic problem.”
Unless you read the New York Times! In the Times, Zernike keeps reporting that Christie said he learned on September 13, from the Bergen Record.
As a reporter, Zernike’s a mess. Last night, as part of a channel-wide breakdown, Hayes agreed not to ask her why she keeps making that statement.
Maybe there’s even a reason! But everyone knows the rules of this chase. No one is going to lodge a complaint if you seem to use bogus facts.
That's what they did to Susan Rice. Snaking and clowning as she went, Rachel just ran off and hid.
Tomorrow: What Rachel did