NBC's Todd: Christie's Media 'Free Ride' is Over, 'Welcome to the Vetting Process' for 2016

On Thursday's NBC Today, political director Chuck Todd reveled in the wall-to-wall media coverage of the bridge closing controversy surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: "Welcome to the NFL....he has gotten a lot of benefit by being sort of this Republican rising star in the New York City media markets, so he gets a lot of access to media attention, access to national media. And so he's had a free ride, if you will. Well now, welcome to the vetting process." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Todd's comments were prompted by co-host Matt Lauer declaring: "[Christie] is a political star for the Republican Party. He's now the head of the Republican Governor's Association, a lot of power there, so Democrats are gonna work this story for a long time." Todd replied: "Absolutely....Now that he's essentially shown interest in being a presidential candidate, this is what life is like. This is what happens when the bright lights start burning."

Compare that attitude to the adulation the national press heaped on then-Senator Barack Obama when he was running for president in 2008. In a Media Research Center study that year entitled Obama's Margin of Victory: The Media, research director Rich Noyes found:

The networks downplayed or ignored major Obama gaffes and scandals. Obama's relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko was the subject of only two full reports (one each on ABC and NBC) and mentioned in just 15 other stories. CBS and NBC also initially downplayed controversial statements from Obama's longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright, but heavily praised Obama’s March 18 speech on race relations.

So when exactly did the "bright lights start burning" Obama?

Since the story broke on Wednesday, NBC has been hyping Christie's potential presidential run to justify its level of coverage. On Nightly News that evening, anchor Brian Williams proclaimed: "Chris Christie, a man a lot of Republicans regard as a consensus candidate for the party nomination in 2016."

In a report on Thursday's Today just prior to Todd's appearance, correspondent Stephanie Gosk explained: "This may feel like a local story of nasty state politics, but everything New Jersey Governor Chris Christie does plays out on a national stage. This morning, the 2016 GOP hopeful finds himself answering to more than just New Jersey voters."

At the top of the morning show's 9 a.m. ET hour, co-host Willie Geist announced: "This is a big story coming out of this New York area but could have potential national implications based on whether or not Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey decides to run for president."


Here is a full transcript of Todd's January 9 segment on Today:

7:05AM ET

MATT LAUER: Let's bring in Chuck Todd, NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Christie Bridge Controversy; Will Scandal Tarnish 2016 Appeal?]

LAUER: One major question surrounding this situation has now been answered in my opinion, this was, in fact, political retribution, two of those e-mails prove that. So the other huge question is, did Chris Christie know about it and did he order it? How will the answer to that question impact his political future?

TODD: Well, I have to say, Matt, either – there's no good answer now at this point. Because there's either one or two things that are going on, either Chris Christie knew and he's now lied in that statement or you take him at his word and he doesn't have control of his own chief deputies. That there is a culture in his office where doing something like this, political retribution, is acceptable behavior.

The point is, Matt, is that here this undermines sort of one of his great assets that a lot of Republicans and a lot of independent voters think could be something that he could bring to the presidency, which is this idea that he works across the aisle, that he doesn't get involved – that he doesn't get mired in this petty, polarized politics. And yet, this is sort of the worst of the worst of petty politics.

LAUER: So he has released a statement now, he hasn't sat down for an interview. What does he have to do to try to get his arms around or get control of this story?

TODD: Well, he's so far behaving very un-Christie like. The idea that he only released a statement. Chris Christie has never been afraid of a TV camera, as you and I both know. So the idea that he's essentially gone underground for the last 24 hours on this. After – you know, he's violating the basic rules of crisis management, right? He spoke earlier without knowing all the facts, without making sure he wasn't gonna say something that was gonna bite him back, which clearly that did happen. But at this point he's got to get out in front of this. He's got to own this and somebody's got to get fired. Obviously he says he doesn't know, this was unsanctioned behavior. How is it that this person hasn't been fired yet? We already have two resignations at the Port Authority.  

LAUER: And Chuck, the story has a life of its own on one side, but you have to take the other dynamic in this as well. He is a political star for the Republican Party. He's now the head of the Republican Governor's Association, a lot of power there, so Democrats are gonna work this story for a long time.

TODD: Absolutely. This is, you know, welcome to the NFL. You know, this is – he has gotten a lot of benefit by being sort of this Republican rising star in the New York City media markets, so he gets a lot of access to media attention, access to national media. And so he's had a free ride, if you will. Well now, welcome to the vetting process. Now that he's essentially shown interest in being a presidential candidate, this is what life is like. This is what happens when the bright lights start burning. So I think that that's why he can't sit here and be quiet anymore. He's got to get out in front of this, and out in front of this in a hurry.

LAUER: Chuck Todd at the White House this morning. Chuck, as always, thanks very much.

TODD: You got it.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC