Mother Superior knows: Bridget Kelly is testifying again today. She's doing so as part of a federal trial in which she's charged with criminal conduct in the "Bridgegate" matter.
She's testifying in her own defense. Just that quickly, we've told you things you were never told on last Friday's Maddow Show.
For ourselves, we aren't in favor of throwing everyone in jail. Beyond that, we don't know why Kelly did the things she did, or if she really did anything you actually knew to be wrong.
That said, we are in favor of reasonably honest journalism. By way of contrast, Maddow often seems to like hanging the people she knows to be Bad.
Watching cable last Friday, we saw a lot of bad reporting of Kelly's first day on the stand. Maddow's treatment was the worst we saw. Now that the transcript has been posted, let's run through some of the problems with the way Maddow's viewers got spun.
(In a few cases, we've corrected the transcript through use of the videotape, to which we can't give a link.)
Let's start at the beginning. You can't sensibly evaluate Kelly's testimony if you don't understand a basic fact: Kelly is testifying as part of a federal trial in which she in which she is the defendant. Along with Bill Baroni, she is charged with serious crimes in this ongoing criminal trial.
Maddow's viewers were never told that! Maddow and her journalist guest kept referring to Kelly as "[Christie's] deputy chief of staff."
They didn't even bother saying former deputy chief of staff. Trust us: The majority of Maddow's viewers had no idea, as they watched, that Kelly is on trial, charged with criminal conduct. Almost surely, many viewers received the impression that Kelly was simply a Christie staffer who was giving testimony about Christie's behavior.
They were never told an extremely basic fact—if Kelly's explanations don't wash, she could end up going to jail. Unless we're all living on some alternative planet, this means that Kelly has a large incentive to misremember or lie.
Did Kelly lie or misremember last Friday? We have no way of knowing! But before we look at the things Maddow said, let's get clear about what Kelly is trying to explain in her testimony.
Kelly is trying to explain why she wrote certain emails before, during and after the now-famous "Bridgegate" mess. That includes the famous email from August 2013, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." It includes some emails she wrote during the September 2013 lane closings, when she seemed to be snarking with "mastermind" David Wildstein about the giant traffic mess.
Those emails make it seem that Kelly was party to Wildstein's nefarious political motives, which made his conduct a crime. (Wildstein has already pleaded guilty to criminal conduct.) Kelly is claiming that she didn't know that Wildstein had a nefarious motive when he engineered the lane closings. She's claiming that she thought the lane closings were part of a legitimate traffic study.
If Bridget Kelly can't sell that story, she may be going to jail. But Maddow's viewers were never told that Kelly is on trial. They were never told that she has an obvious incentive to misremember or lie. Instead, Maddow encouraged sympathy for the poor misused victim of the evil Christie. Here's the way she teased Kelly's testimony in an initial three-minute segment:
MADDOW (10/21/16): [Christie's] deputy chief of staff also testified herself today. She says before she sent that e-mail that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," before she sent that e-mail, she testified she got the okay to do so from Governor Christie himself, personally and directly. She ran it by him.From that, a viewer might have thought that Kelly "ran [the actual text of the email] by" Christie. Kelly didn't say that. She merely said that she told Christie that a traffic study would be taking place. Maddow tends to play this way when tackling those she dislikes.
She also testified that she is personally physically afraid of Governor Christie. She broke down in tears on the stand while she recounted him swearing at her and throwing stuff at her.
And that's next.
More significantly, Maddow started by encouraging sympathy for the tearful "deputy chief of staff." After a commercial break, Maddow returned with WNYC's Andrea Bernstein as her guest.
This is the embarrassing way they began their discussion of Kelly:
MADDOW: There are no cameras in the courtroom, so we count on excellent reporters to read us out on what happened.If Kelly's defense attorney had actually bribed these "journalists," they couldn't have done a better job reciting his company line.
Dude, what happened here? Joining us now is Andrea Bernstein for WNYC News. She was there in the room. Andrea, thank you for being here.
MADDOW: I know throwing the water bottle thing isn't necessarily central here. But, what's up with throwing the water bottle?
BERNSTEIN: So, throwing the water bottle was meant to show that Christie, she was afraid of Christie.
MADDOW: This is his deputy chief of staff.
BERNSTEIN: It is his deputy chief of staff, and the incident was at this event, where she had organized some businesses and commissioners and she was briefing him beforehand. She said, "Governor, I think you should welcome everybody, then let the commissioners talk to the businessmen who have just lost everything again for the second time." And he said, "What do you think I am, an F-ing game show host," according to testimony, and threw the bottle. She was just sobbing throughout this.
I mean, she was mostly composed. There were times when she choked up during her testimony. But she was just crying right to the jury when she said this.
MADDOW: She also testified that, before she sent what is the most famous piece of evidence in this scandal, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," that email, she said she ran it by Governor Christie.
Maddow started by noting the relative irrelevance of the (alleged) bottle-throwing incident. She then built the whole first part of her discussion around the (alleged) act.
Bernstein referred to the (alleged) incident as if it is known to have happened. But it isn't known to have happened! It represents an allegation by Kelly. (We can't help noting that Bernstein kept forgetting to say "alleged.")
Bernstein then focused on the way Kelly was sobbing and crying as she discussed an (alleged) event whose basic irrelevance Maddow had started by noting. Maddow then seemed to repeat the (inaccurate) claim that Kelly said she that had shown Christie the text of the email which got her charged with a crime.
That's journalism as it's taught in the nation's clown colleges. And as the "journalists" continued, they kept assuming the accuracy of Kelly's various claims:
BERNSTEIN (continuing directly): She did. She said it was a very poor choice of words. That she had been parroting David Wildstein, who was the mastermind behind all of this, and who is cooperating with the prosecutors.Hanging judges, please! Might we state the obvious?
She said—he had raised the idea that he wanted to do a study and it was going to cause big traffic jams and could she tell the governor. She said she was afraid not to, that if there was a problem, it would be blamed on her. She went to the governor that day and said that David Wildstein wanted to do a study in Fort Lee and it was going to cause traffic jams and he said, "OK, fine. What's our relationship with the mayor?" And she said she was embarrassed because she actually didn't know what the relationship at that time was with the mayor of Fort Lee.
MADDOW: So what this means, in terms of sort of culpability on who knew what when, is that Christie knew ahead of time that there were going to be traffic problems in Fort Lee—
MADDOW: That they were man-made traffic problems.
BERNSTEIN: Correct. Which is contra to everything he said.
Kelly's statements mean that Christie "knew ahead of time" only if her statements are accurate. But there's another obvious possibility, a possibility which was never brooked on this "cable news" program:
Kelly's story may be false! She may have invented this story in an attempt to beat the criminal charges with which she stands accused—criminal charges which never got mentioned in Maddow's eight minutes of discussion.
Did Kelly ever speak with Christie in the way she described? Aside from her testimony, there's no evidence to that effect. Her story may be true, of course. But it could be totally false!
Throughout this segment, Maddow and Bernstein never brooked the possibility that Kelly's testimony was bogus. Here's the problem with that highly selective treatment:
Every part of Kelly's story serves to paint her own conduct is the most favorable light. But since Maddow never told her viewers that Kelly is fighting for her freedom, it may not have occurred to those viewers that Kelly may be choosing to lie about what occurred.
Maddow played the "sobbing frightened woman card" as she went after Christie, painting him as a liar. She forgot to describe the type of conduct Kelly will have to explain.
On Friday, Kelly was trying to explain why she sent that unpleasant-sounding "traffic problems" email. Eventually, she'll also have to explain this unseemly exchange, via today's NJ.com:
SHERMAN AND ARCO (10/24/16): But those are not the only words Kelly needs to explain.Wildstein thought that email from the mayor was politically A-OK. The mayor had only mentioned the mmassive inconvenience. He hadn't mentioned the massive safety concerns.
There were the texts she exchanged with Wildstein the week of the lane closures, including one on Sept. 10, 2013—the second day of the massive traffic backups in Fort Lee—after Sokoloich sent a desperate message to Baroni complaining about the situation.
"Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth... The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It's maddening."
Baroni did not return the message and forwarded it to Wildstein.
"Is it wrong that I am smiling?" Kelly asked Wildstein after he shared it with her.
"No," he responded.
"I feel badly about the kids. I guess," she said.
"They are the children of Buono voters," replied Wildstein, referring to Barbara Buono, then the Democratic nominee challenging Christie in the gubernatorial race. "Bottom line is he didn't say safety."
Unlike Maddow, we aren't in favor of throwing all Bad People in jail. We're aren't in favor of sifting the facts to harden a case against the Bad People we oppose—in this case, Christie.
That said, Kelly didn't seem to be sobbing and crying as she discussed these dangerous "traffic problems" with Wildstein in real time. She didn't seem like the fearful wilting flower who sobbed about Christie in court.
In the next few days, Kelly will have to explain her emails. It looks like Maddow will help her. All Maddow has ever seemed to want is a bit of Christie's scalp. It seems she's willing to play her viewers to get it.
Much more was horribly wrong with Maddow's two segments last Friday. This includes her bungled treatment of the testimony of Mike DuHaime, another former Christie staffer.
That said, here's the way Maddow ended her discussion. Finally, at the very end, Bernstein said three magic words:
BERNSTEIN: But [DuHaime's] testimony was eclipsed by the testimony of Bridget Kelly, who has flipped the narrative. And she said, "I was the one without the power here. I was the one who wasn't told this was a retaliatory scheme."According to Bernstein, Kelly testified that "the governor was ordering retaliation." In fact, Kelly said no such thing.
BERNSTEIN: "They put me in the position of sending these e-mails and carrying it out, but I didn't know what was going on." And it was the big guys, according to her testimony, the governor, his chief of staff and his campaign manager who were ordering retaliation, and she described in detail a retaliatory scheme against another mayor, the mayor of Jersey City, in which the governor allegedly said he doesn't, he's not entitled to an F-ing meeting. A lot of cursing in the Bridgegate trial.
MADDOW: I'm shocked by—
MADDOW: I'm not shocked by the cursing. I am shocked by the throwing.
BERNSTEIN: If it's true, not only were the governor's top aides involved, but they have participated in a big cover-up of what happened.
MADDOW: And he lied about it directly. Hoo!
Andrea Bernstein, WNYC News senior editor and Bridgegate trial watcher for us this evening. Andrea, thanks for being here.
Kelly testified that she had been told that the lane closings were an innocent part of a legitimate traffic study. She testified that she approached the governor with that understanding. She described him saying nothing different.
Beyond that, she testified that Christie asked her how relations were with the Fort Lee mayor. She said she told him she didn't know, thereby making herself look innocent of any political retribution.
Of course, this also tends to make Christie look innocent. It we take her story at face value, it sounds like Christie himself didn't know about Wildstein's act of retribution against the Fort Lee mayor. Unless her story is false!
At any rate, Maddow returned to the (alleged) cursing and throwing as she finished her segment. (Once again, she forgot to say "alleged.") "Hoo," she entertainingly said, teaching us to adore her uniqueness more completely and fully. But in the course of that final transaction, Bernstein finally blurted three magic words.
"If it's true," Bernstein finally said, though we'll guarantee that no one noticed. Christie has been contradicted (in one way) if Kelly's claims are true.
This whole bowl of entertaining stew turns on a basic question. Was Bridget Kelly telling the truth last Friday? Were her statements true? Or was she simply making this up, hoping to beat a criminal rap?
Kelly is fighting for her freedom, but Maddow's viewers weren't told that. Mother Superior always knows who the Very Bad People are. She also seems to know what it's good for her own misused children to hear.
Again, our own initial reaction: We've always found it hard to believe that Christie would do something so monumentally stupid.
Such a gigantic risk for so puny a reward? To us, it seems hard to believe that Christie's that dumb. Like Maddow, though, we don't know.
We do know that Kelly's on trial. Maddow's play-toys weren't told.