Fort Lee: Working to avoid basic facts!


Rachel [HEART] Mayor Sokolich: Over the weekend, an important new fact emerged, or seemed to emerge, in the Fort Lee story. Here it is:

Mayor Mark Sokolich actually was asked to endorse Governor Christie!

This basic fact is only “new” because Sokolich made a point of saying the opposite as recently as last Wednesday. Over the weekend, he changed his story, as we first noted on Monday.

We’ve noted this fact several times because it’s a very basic fact, given the way the Fort Lee story has been reported. You’d think the fact that Sokolich changed his story would be widely noted and explored.

It hasn’t happened that way. Instead, various journalists have worked rather hard to avoid noting the fact that Sokolich changed this part of his story. We’ll assume the reason is obvious:

In the way this drama has been crafted, Sokolich has been cast as the good guy in a highly fraught morality tale. For that reason, no one wants to say that he went on CNN last Wednesday night and told a bit of a fib to Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER (1/8/14): So take us into this feud that was going. Did they really expect you, a Democrat, to endorse the Republican candidate's re-election, Chris Christie?

SOKOLICH: I guess. You know, I've said this many times. I don't recall a specific request to endorse, but, you know, the events that led up to all of this, I guess you can interpret to be somehow attracting me to endorse. I didn't want to endorse for several reasons, not the least of, which is I'm a Democrat. I was supportive of Miss. Buono.
Based on what Sokolich said this weekend, that pretty much wasn’t true. Over the weekend, he did seem to describe “a specific request to endorse,” although he told the New York Times he still didn’t want to name the person who made the request.

Speaking with Blitzer, Sokolich strongly stressed the idea that he couldn’t recall a specific request to endorse. He strongly underplayed the notion that “the events that led up to all of this” could be “interpreted” as “attracting him” to endorse.

He said he “guessed” you could “somehow” interpret those events that way. Speaking to the New York Times, he said something quite different.

This doesn’t mean that Sokolich is some sort of bad person. That said, if Christie changed a key part of his story to that extent, it would surely be called a lie and bruited all over cable.

That’s the way story-telling works, as opposed to journalism.

As far as we know, no one has asked Sokolich why he said what he said to Blitzer. Instead, journalists have drawn attention away from this change in his story.

No one has worked any harder than Rachel Maddow, who is often journalistically clownish. Last evening, she was wearing her big orange shoes as she handed you this:
MADDOW (1/15/14): In the Sunday New York Times this week, the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mark Sokolich, did an interview in which he explained how and when he was asked by the Chris Christie reelection campaign if he would please endorse Chris Christie for re-election. He said the request happened last spring. He said it was not a high pressure pitch, but he said he didn`t want to tell the Times exactly who the Chris Christie staffer was who had contacted him and asked for his endorsement.

That same day, though, the Wall Street Journal named the guy. It turns out, reportedly, it was a guy named Matt Mowers. Matt Mowers, according to the Wall Street Journal, was the Christie campaign official who is responsible for calling Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, and other Democratic mayors across New Jersey in trying to talk them into endorsing Chris Christie.
For the record, the reports in question appeared in the Monday hard-copy editions of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. They appeared on-line Sunday night.

On last night’s program, Maddow cited Sokolich’s “explanation” of “how and why he was asked to please endorse” in a thoroughly casual way. She acted like she was discussing a thoroughly routine matter.

She wasn’t! She was discussing a basic change in the mayor’s story. But then, Maddow’s refusal to report the fact that Sokolich flipped has been especially clownish.

Last Thursday, Maddow built the entire first half of her program around the fact that Sokolich said he hadn’t been asked to endorse. Because Christie and Sokolich had said similar things, Maddow devised a whole new theory of the motive behind the lane closings.

In our view, Maddow’s new theory was rather half-baked, but it was widely hailed in the liberal world. That’s why it has been especially grating to see this partisan non-journalist discuss the mayor’s new story without ever noting the fact that Sokolich changed his account.

The fact that Sokolich changed his story doesn’t make him a bad guy. It may mean that New Jersey Dems are so intimidated by Christie’s bully-boy tactics that they are reluctant to state even the most basic facts.

That said, Sokolich did change his story. Or at least, you’d think Maddow would see it that way, since she built a whole new theory out of the mayor’s old story.

Here’s the way she framed it last week. Warning! Bad paraphrase coming!
MADDOW (1/9/14) The operating assumption to explain what happened in the Chris Christie bridge scandal is that this whole thing came about because of political retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor refusing to endorse Governor Christie, and so his town of Fort Lee had to pay the price. He didn`t endorse, and so Fort Lee had to be punished.

The governor refuted that assumption today by saying, “Yes, I wanted endorsements but this one in Fort Lee was not a high-stakes thing for us. We didn’t even try hard for it. I didn’t even meet the guy. Why do you think my side would flip out so outrageously and bring the hammer down for not getting this endorsement? One in a zillion of them!”

We don’t have to take Christie`s word for it. The mayor of Fort Lee himself, Mark Sokolich, has also indicated although he thinks he was maybe asked to endorse, it wasn’t a short sharp shock. It wasn’t any massive pressure campaign to get him onboard. He barely even remembers it. He was asked about it last night on CNN.

BLITZER: Did they really expect you, a Democrat, to endorse the Republican candidate’s re-election, Chris Christie?
SOKOLICH: I guess. I’ve said this many times, I don’t recall a specific request to endorse, but, you know, the events that led up to all of this, I guess you can interpret to be somehow attracting me to endorse. I didn’t want to endorse for several reasons. Not the least of which is I`m a Democrat. I was supportive of Ms. Buono. I wasn’t prepared to do that.

MADDOW: So, it’s true that the Fort Lee mayor, Mr. Sokolich, did not endorse Chris Christie when some other Democratic officials did and the governor clearly wanted those endorsements. Lots of Democratic local officials in New Jersey did not endorse Chris Christie, either, when they got asked to, and they didn’t get their towns blown up for a week.


Maybe it wasn’t about the endorsement. Maybe it was something else special about Fort Lee.
Maddow saves herself with a lousy paraphrase. According to her paraphrase, Sokolich told Blitzer he thinks he was maybe asked to endorse, though it wasn’t a short sharp shock.

That is barely written in English—and it isn’t what Sokolich said. Sokolich said he “couldn’t recall a specific request to endorse.” He said he guessed you could interpret events as somehow constituting an attempt to attract him to endorse.

That just isn't what he told the New York Times this weekend.

Over the weekend, Sokolich changed his story; someone should ask him why. Among the many other facts Maddow is keeping from her viewers, she is refusing to state the obvious—Sokolich changed a basic part of his story, for whatever reason.

That doesn’t make Sokolich a bad guy. It doesn’t mean that Christie's team didn’t behave extremely badly, perhaps criminally.

It helps make Maddow what she is—a highly partisan tribal dramatist who often appears in large shoes.


  1. This whole contradiciton thing is easy to explain. When Malala Yousazai visted Ft Lee last week she spread pixie dust on Sokolich and made him a bearer of complete, benificent truth.

    When she left, presumably over the George Washington Bridge, the mayor returned to the spineless ineffectual New Jersey Dem he has always been.

  2. OMB (Measuring How Far BOB Knows)

    As far as we know, no one has asked Sokolich why he said what he said to Blitzer. Instead, journalists have drawn attention away from this change in his story.

    As far as we know, everything is possible. Well, we just don't know.


    1. Seems from your links, "it is possible" that the change in the Once-Sainted Sokolich's account was noticed, he was asked about it, and he declined to comment further.

      Does BOB even know what Google is?

    2. He know what Nexis is. So he may know about Google.
      Everything is possible. WWJD-K.


    3. But does he use either to test whatever new "theory" pops into his head before he rushes his "possibilities" onto his blog?

      Or is it "possible" that he thinks all reporters are as lazy as he is?

  3. OMB (Susan Rice Visits Ft. Lee)

    In the interest of context, we might remind BOBfans and BOBreaders worldwide that Sokolich's interview with Blitzer came the day the first batch of e-mails became public but before Christie had acted upon them. This is the interview which prompted BOB to write that Masala post praising the Mayor and attributing to her the qualities of the girl who defied, but did not hate, the Taliban.

    Sokolich said a bit more than BOB has reproduced on his blog. From the transcript:

    "SOKOLICH: Let me tell you, I've always said from that Monday, when traffic -- when the traffic was stopped -- and now we know it to have been stopped intentionally -- a little bit, I remained in the background, because I was always scared about what would happen to Fort Lee when you stop reporting on this, Wolf, and all the other media channels stop reporting on it, three months, six months, a year from now.

    Who's to say what they're going to do to my borough, to my residents, to my citizens and to me? We're concerned about that. Who's to say that in six months they're not going to find some guy that's going to actually do a study and suggest that we shouldn't have lanes or we should only get one lane. They can wreak havoc on our community, they can wreak havoc on the safety and well-being of our residents. That's my concern.

    When the story doesn't garner any more attention, we're nervous about further retribution now knowing what we know. And I said that from day one."

    That doesn't sound like Masala. Sounds like someobody who thinks the Taliban is coming back. After Christie's 'mea culpa, mea, mea, poor little old mea' presser the next day, perhaps the Mayor felt he could speak a little more candidly. Who knows. He ain't talking now.


  4. Twenty subpoenas issued today.

    It's.time to keep your cards close to the vest, N.J. Democrats..

  5. What is important here:

    1. Who ultimately authorized the traffic snarl?
    2. Who in the administration knew about it before a week ago
    3, Why the snarl was ordered

    1. Our intellectual culture is broken. Our rotted-out values leave us just this side of insane.

      And you, sir, you are worried about the who's, when's, and why's of a piddling traffic snarl.

    2. You know what's even worse, Anonymous 9:24?

      This breakdown is so widespread it can’t be seen by many observers.

    3. I'll interpret Anon 9:24 as tongue in cheek.

  6. Who said the story was all ginned up and hasn't apologized to this day?

    A story that has lead to

    A key player won't talk without immunity !

    And to our intrepid blogger, its all "ginned up".

    Who said "traffic across the bridge wasn't affected" and smoothly said later"rush hour finished sooner" without blinking an eyelid?


    Maddow can't wear her large shoes right now because one is wedged deep inside the blogger's butt.

    1. So you admit she "often wears large shoes", Mr. Trollypants?

      Can you now confirm they are orange?


    20 Subpoenas Issued in Ginned Up Story

    Chrisite Lawyers Up With "Alligator" Attorney

    PA Tells U.S. Senate No Legitimate Study Conducted

    We TDH readers, however, do get a rehash of Maddow rehashing.
    Somerby correctly notes or umpteenth time Maddow is a clown. Perhaps mistakes color of her clown shoes due to reflection off his clown nose.

    Meanwhile, Michelle Rhee Twitter Q&A goes uncovered. But take heart. Salon has it.

  8. "In our view, Maddow’s new theory was rather half-baked, but it was widely hailed in the liberal world."

    Question: You earlier cited another niche crackpot blogger's guest post in Salon and some comments to a Dowd column praising Maddow's theory. Any other evidence it was "widely hailed" in LiberalWorld?

    Question: Was it proudly hailed at the twilight's first gleaming?

    1. I don't watch cable news, so I don't know about how often it was hailed on TV. But a post about Maddow's theory was at the top of the DailyKos Recommended list for two days:

  9. Since blogger won't apologize for calling it a "ginned up" story - he is struggling mightily to show that it might have been study.

    WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT IT WAS A STUDY - as long as someone measured traffic.

    The question is - was there a LEGITIMATE study?

    The answer is already a resounding NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Hey blogger - why has everybody lawyered up and Wildstein is asking for immunity before he would testify - hmmmmmm.)

    and the blogger is only fooling his disciples in suggesting that the question is still open:

    The Port Authority wrote that it shared Rockefeller’s concerns and that the closure of the lanes on the bridge were “not in any way representative of the manner in which business is conducted at the Port Authority.” Furthermore, just as the Democratic Senator warned, the Port Authority expressed concern over the risk of sideswipe crashes, “The Chief Engineer raised traffic safety concerns related to the local traffic merge situation that would be created, including the risk of sideswipe crashes.”


    So far there is no evidence that there was a legitimate traffic study that went through proper channels. Furthermore, it looks as if staff felt pressured to go along with the bridge closure even though they were aware of the potential problems. These new developments highlight the dangers in the path that Governor Chris Christie chose in dealing with this crisis, which was to claim that he knew nothing about it while blaming staff and a traffic study. The traffic study is down. Christie better hope his staff (and ex staff) hold up better under scrutiny than the traffic study story.


    Blogger when are you going to explain "traffic across the Bridge wasn't affected" followed smoothly by the "Rush hour finished sooner"?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. It's pretty simple, as anyone who actually had an inquiring mind would be able to figure out. In the context of the ballyhoo about "the world's busiest bridge," it means that "traffic across the Bridge wasn't adversely affected." Wildstein and crew didn't mess up the interstate traffic flow, just poor Fort Lee's.

      Glad to help. Now you can get back to checking TDH's claims about Maddow's shoe size.

  10. rat,

    you'll do well as an elephant shovel brigader - NOT.

    Let us take your "Affected" = Adversely affected".

    Since the blogger didn't know the first time that the main lanes actually got through faster, he meant to write

    Whats the big deal - "the main traffic didn't get worse - only Fort Lee's"

    With "helpers" like you - he doesn't need enemies.

    The Fort Lee lanes are part of what makes the GWB "the world's busiest bridge" and mentioning that fact is perfectly legit. The blogger took a cheap feces hurl and it landed on him.

    1. First of all, we're not on a second-syllable name basis. You may call me deadrat.

      Secondly, why not try reading for comprehension? You might get to like it. TDH was castigating Maddow for what he thinks is her addiction to hype: 'OMG! They messed with the busiest bridge in the world. WTF?!" Well, yeah, they did. And guess what, interstate traffic actually improved. At the expense, of course, of poor "destroyed" Fort Lee, now practically a smoking ruin.

      You want to make a case that the "world's busiest bridge" hype couldn't mislead people into thinking traffic was disrupted into New York or that it wouldn't matter if they did, fine. You want to make a case that TDH is singling out Darlin' Rachel for unfair criticism. Also fine. Hell, if you have the statistics to show that Fort Lee makes a significant contribution to interstate traffic across the Hudson on I-95, bring them on.

      But do me two additional favors beyond getting my nym right. The first is to stop pretending that you've got some kind of "gotcha" with the affected-traffic quote.

      The second is to stop pretending that you're not the one throwing the misdirected feces.

      Are we good?