Facts are not stubborn things, Hardball edition: In our last post, we described the way Hardball’s Chris Matthews is scripting a story about Fort Lee.
Chris is good at typecasting drama. When it comes to facts, not so much.
His craziest moment still has to be the Hardball show from December 2007 when he said, all through the hour, that Candidate Obama’s “mother and maternal grandmother” were “Islamic.” To gaze in the void, just click here.
By that time, Chris had been pimping Obama for almost a year, part of his war against Hillary Clinton. Incredibly, he still didn’t seem to know the most basic facts about Obama’s background.
Christopher tends to be like that! Last night, he and two of his most trusted henchmen bungled some facts from Fort Lee.
Bless his heart! In a highly unusual move, Chris was trying to quote a report from an actual newspaper! In response, David Corn emitted the ubiquitous “yes” when something else should have been said:
MATTHEWS (1/15/14): In Christie’s case, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that he had tried the heat taken off in his way. Here’s how he did it: "Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to New Jersey Governor Andrew Cuomo, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes into the bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, were cut off three to one in early September, according to a person familiar with the matter."Bless his heart! After quoting the Wall Street Journal, Chris noted that Christie has denied the report in question. He failed to note that Governor Cuomo has denied it too.
For the record, Christie denied the Wall Street Journal report.
But there you have another way of going to somebody else in government saying, “Let’s kind of cut this off.” So, he to me has his hands on this. Why would a governor call another governor and say, “Use your offices and stop this damn investigation?”
Cuomo’s statement is now a month old. Yesterday, even the New York Times reported it. By sometime in the next several decades, Chris and his staff will have heard.
That's why Chris gets the millions! That said, David wasn’t much help. Don’t let the children watch:
CORN (continuing directly): Yes. Listen, we know there was a—Bless their hearts! The boys went on and on, failing to report the fact that Cuomo backed Christie last month.
MATTHEWS: Why would he do it?
CORN: We know there was a cover-up. They came up with a cover story, a traffic study. And his chief associates at the Port Authority stuck to this. So, like you want to keep with the Watergate theory—
MATTHEWS: What do you mean, keep with it?
CORN: They came up with this stonewall, with a cover-up, and it kind of stuck for a couple of months. And that is part of the investigation. But I think, at the end of the day—
MATTHEWS: Why would he risk calling Cuomo up? Did he think Cuomo would cover for him?
CORN: Because, because he—because he probably thinks there is something at risk here.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but why would he risk telling a Democrat he was afraid of an investigation
CORN: Because he’s afraid of an investigation, Chris.
FINEMAN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Who knows? Maybe Cuomo was lying. But that’s what Governor Cuomo said, unless you watch these pitiful boys tell you the stories they like.
As you can see, Howard jumped in at that point. He’s Hardball’s longest-serving echo. In this age of generational transfer in cable news, his survival is a remarkable story.
That said, Howard was struggling with basic facts too. For our money, there’s a basic journalistic problem lurking here:
FINEMAN (continuing directly): No, no, no, no, no, no, no.By now, David and Howard had both said that the Christie team came up with a cover story, a stonewall, in the form of that non-existent traffic study. According to Howard, Christie had stuck to this as a possibility “against all evidence.”
MATTHEWS: Howard, what do you think?
FINEMAN: To me, to me, the most Nixonian moment of this whole thing so far was at the press conference last week when Chris Christie said, against all evidence, he said, “And by the way, maybe there really was a traffic study.”
That was a Nixonian moment, if there was ever one.
In this way, pundits have given the impression that the story about the traffic study was dreamed up after the fact. But as the emails revealed last week, Wildstein and them actually seemed to be out on I-95 in real time that week. To all appearances, they were keeping track, or pretending to keep track, of northbound traffic flow.
Was this some sort of actual study, moronically executed? Was it an outright sham? Not being clairvoyant, we can’t tell you—but we can tell you that various texts and emails suggested that some of the team were actually out on I-95 recording the traffic flow.
Was that a real “study,” or was it a hoax? We can’t tell you that! But from the press corps, you'll never hear about those emails at all, even though they might end up playing some role in the eventual truth.
Were they staging a fake traffic study as part of a future power grab? We have no way of knowing. But the boys of cable have a long-standing approach to such matters. They simply disappear the facts which don’t fit their preferred story line.
We’ve seen no one explain those emails, in which northbound traffic flow was apparently being recorded. Until they’re explained, those emails are part of the record (except in the press corps, of course). They may be part of the ultimate story, if it ever comes clear.
For the record, Obama’s mother wasn’t Islamic. By now, we think Chris has heard.
Discuss at length: Have those emails been explained? As far as we know, they have not. As with everything else, it's all about crafting the story.
The story itself keeps jumping around, as we'll see in our next post.