On Morning Joe, total confusion: Normally, we don’t watch Morning Joe. We’re elsewhere, drinking coffee.
This morning, we happened to watch during the program’s first half hour. Nicolle Wallace was trying to nail down some basic facts about the Christie fandango.
As she did, she made some basic presumptions which seem to be widespread among the pundit class. In the exchange shown below, she explains what Team Christie should have said in response to David Wildstein this weekend.
In the highlighted statement, Wallace makes a common pair of presumptions. As far as we know, each presumption is false:
WALLACE (2/3/14): I actually think that the way they [the Christie team] responded brought more eyeballs to this story…If they had simply said, “We stand by the governor’s statement in his press conference. He had no knowledge that there were political shenanigans going on with the lane closures. But of course he was he was aware that two lanes on a major bridge in his state were closed for three days.”Wallace takes it as obvious that Christie knew about the lane closings while they were happening. Other pundits on Morning Joe were making this same presumption.
SCARBOROUGH: That’s no news, period. And that’s it!
The lane closings were all over the news, pundits like this routinely say. Of course Governor Christie would have to have known about them!
As far as we know, the lane closings were not all over the news. According to Nexis, the first mention of the situation in a New Jersey or New York newspaper occurred on Friday, September 13—the day the lane closings ended.
When N. R. Kleinfield summarized these events in the New York Times, he gave the same account of when news coverage started.
Wallace makes a second mistake—a mistake many other Morning Joe pundits seemed to be making today. The lane closings did not occur “on a major bridge in his state.”
The lane closings didn’t occur on the bridge at all! They occurred on access lanes leading to the bridge. Scarborough and a barrelful of uninformed pundits seemed to say, as the program wore on, that anyone driving from New Jersey to New York, as Christie did that week, would of course have seen that lanes were closed as they crossed the bridge.
No lanes were closed on the bridge! Morning Joe had assembled a boatload of pundits who didn’t seem to understand the simplest facts about this high-profile event.
Then too, there was Kate Zernike, who appeared on Morning Joe in a second segment today—one of the most confused and confusing pundit segments we have ever seen.
(To watch the two David Wildstein segments, just click here. Then continue clicking.)
The bulk of this morning’s confusion was created by Scarborough and his clueless team of pundits. That said, Zernike gave her third account in as many days about what Christie has said in the past about the way he first learned about the lane closings.
Have we ever seen a major reporter with such a weak command of such basic facts? Let’s review the three accounts Zernike has given in the past three days.
On Friday, David Wildstein challenged something Christie is taken to have said. According to Wildstein’s lawyer, “evidence exists...tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference.”
The two-hour press conference occurred on January 9.
What has Christie actually said about this matter? In the last three days, Zernike has answered that question three different ways.
What has Christie said about this topic? On the front page of Saturday’s New York Times, Zernike reported this:
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.That made it sound like Christie has said, “repeatedly,” that he learned about the lane closings on September 13, apparently from the Bergen Record.
We were puzzled by that account. By the next day, it had changed:
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.The claim of those “repeated” statements had now been dropped. We were only told what Christie said on January 9.
It still sounded like he said at that time that he learned of the closings on September 13, from the Bergen Record. Here’s our problem with that:
We still can’t find Christie making that statement in the transcript of his January 9 press conference. If you want to try, just click here.
This morning, Zernike’s account changed again. Here’s what she said on Morning Joe, in her patented herky-jerky style:
ZERNIKE (2/3/14): Christie had said earlier, I didn’t—Those “repeated” statements by Christie are gone. As of today, they’ve been replaced by two contradictory statements.
Christie said two things.
One, he said, I didn’t know— At one point, he said, I didn’t know until, until Pat—So the executive director of the Port Authority’s memo was leaked, which was October 1, OK? The lane closings end September 12.
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. What Wildstein is saying, he knew about it while they were happening.
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more confused reporter than Zernike. As of today, her claim of those “repeated” statements seems to be “no longer operative.” That said, we’re still confused by her account of what Christie said at the famous two-hour presser on January 9.
Go ahead—search the transcript. We find no point at which Christie says he learned of the closings on September 13. We find no place where he cites the Bergen Record as the source of his knowledge.
We have no idea why Zernike wrote what she did on Saturday. By Sunday, she seemed to have scaled back that account. Today, her account on Morning Joe is substantially different.
Zernike’s attempt at reporting this topic has followed this pattern right from its pitiful start.
Why do we often describe the press corps as a social club? Watch today’s Morning Joe tapes—there are two segments on this subject—if you want to find out.
The pundits seem to have no idea about the simplest facts of this case. When Zernike appears in the second tape, she has changed her basic account for the second straight day—and we still can’t verify the account she is giving.
But so what? On Morning Joe, everyone is laughing and chuckling and enjoying their state of complete incoherence. These are highly irresponsible people. They’re also a blight on your nation’s future.
Meanwhile, what has Christie said in the past? Zernike seems completely unable to answer this basic question. TV stars like Scarborough and Anderson Cooper seem completely unable to nail her down on this point.
From her first day reporting this major event, Zernike has endlessly bungled the facts. She may be the most incompetent reporter we have ever seen.