Although he admitted during the interview to being an admirer of Chris Christie "from afar," CNN's Piers Morgan put the heat on the New Jersey governor early and often during Tuesday night's hour-long interview. To begin the interview, Morgan pulled up a brutal critique of the governor by a political opponent.
Morgan quoted the Democratic president of the state senate who described Christie's political style thus: "Chris knocks you down – like with teachers – and he'll stomp on you, kick on you until he can kill you." When Christie laughed and labeled it "very dramatic, but not true," Morgan had the audacity to challenge him, "Not true?"
That set the tone for the early part of the interview, where the liberal CNN host tried to embellish the governor's outspoken character as radical and unforgiving.
"This is a very civilized conversation we're having. You're very polite. You're very friendly. But I've seen some of these YouTube videos of you in action in these town halls, and you're on the rampage," Morgan told the governor.
"Lacerating these people, taking no prisoners," he added later, and "In the words of Mr. Sweeney, taking them down, stomping on them, and killing them." Surely this was living up to the "civilized conversation" that Morgan just bragged of.
Then Morgan perhaps pulled his most puzzling move and, referencing the governor's Roman Catholicism, asked him to "confess" to anything scandalous he may have done, and any guilt he may feel.
"You know, listen, any confessions I need to make, I'll make to my wife and to my priest, not on CNN to you, pal," Christie humorously responded.
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on June 14 at 8 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: Well talking about being leader on the team, I loved this quote I found from Stephen Sweeney, the Democratic president of the state Senate here, who said about the difference between his style and yours:
"The difference is that I have an off switch and Chris doesn't. You know, if I knock you down, I'll pick you up, brush the dirt off your back, try and build the relationship, and go forward. Chris knocks you down – like with the teachers – and he'll stomp on you, kick on you until he can kill you."
New Jersey Gov. CHRIS CHRISTIE: (Laughing) Very dramatic, but not true, you know? Very dramatic but not true.
MORGAN: Not true?
CHRISTIE: No. Listen, you know, I'm tough when I have to be, the same way Steve is tough when he has to be. But in the end, I'm about getting things done, and you don't get things done by stomping people until they're dead. You get things done by standing for your principles, and letting people know that that's what you stand for. And then that can make appropriate compromise possible. But being squishy does not allow to you make appropriate compromise possible.
MORGAN: Yes. You're like, a sort of political Tony Soprano.
CHRISTIE: Others have said that, Piers. Others have said that.
MORGAN: Yes. But right now, I'm getting sort of -- you know, this is a very civilized conversation we're having. You're very polite. You're very friendly. But I've seen some of these YouTube videos of you in action in these town halls, and you're on the rampage.
MORGAN: Lacerating these people, taking no prisoners.
CHRISTIE: I'm responding to --
MORGAN: In the words of Mr. Sweeney, taking them down, stomping on them, and killing them.
CHRISTIE: I'm responding to their attempted laceration of me. And if you look at the YouTube videos, what you're going to find is -- I mean, I see this at my town hall meetings all the time now.
I say, listen, here's the last rule. If you wanted to screw with me, that's great. And if you do it in a polite and respectable way, you'll get a polite respectable disagreement back. But if you decide you want to take me out for a walk, well then, you're going to get that kind of response as well.
MORGAN: Part of the thing of being a Catholic is you confess to sins. Obviously in light of Weinergate, Schwarzeneggergate, and so on, anything you want to get off your chest?
CHRISTIE: You don't look like a priest to me, Piers. So, no.
MORGAN: Well, should we be ever worried about any skeletons tumbling out of the Christie closet?
CHRISTIE: You know, listen, any confessions I need to make, I'll make to my wife and to my priest, not on CNN to you, pal.
MORGAN: (Laughing) The other thing of being a Catholic is feeling guilty. Do you ever feel guilty about stuff?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I had a Sicilian mother. Guilt was like, you know, a staple served on the kitchen table, you know.
MORGAN: What do you feel most guilty about?
MORGAN: Now, Andrew, you're now very famous, because, of course, you were the one playing baseball when daddy got his helicopter. So were you embarrassed? Were you proud of him? How did you feel?