NBC’s Saturday Today Show Gives DNC Chairwoman Platform to Analyze Christie Scandal

NBC has latched onto the Chris Christie bridge scandal like a leech, so it was no surprise to see a report on the controversy within the first ten minutes of Saturday’s Today show. What was surprising, and dismaying, was that NBC followed up its report with reaction from Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It would be hard to find a less impartial analyst on this matter than the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Reporter Kelly O’Donnell first mentioned DWS’s name at the tail end of her piece, announcing, “The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she represents Florida in Congress, she'll be doing some of her own public events to try to counter Christie's message.”


But rather than leave it at that, co-anchor Erica Hill then introduced Ms. Wasserman Schultz herself, live from Florida. There was no other guest brought on to counter the DNC chairwoman, although you'd think at the very least NBC producers would have attempted to book RNC chairman Reince Priebus. Hill posed her first question:
 

So as we heard from Kelly, you're going to be making your way... around the state... to try to counter that message from Governor Christie. What specifically is it, though, you're trying to counter? Is it what he's saying and what may be related to New Jersey, or is it any potential presidential moves that could be coming up?
 

Silly Erica. Do you really think the DNC chairwoman cares about this controversy for New Jersey’s sake? Democrats have latched onto this scandal because they see it as a way to destroy the Republican they believe to stand the best shot of winning the presidency in 2016 and who, as current chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is in charge of fundraising for the election or reelection of Republican gubernatorial candidates in 36 states this year.

Wasserman Schultz, of course, sidestepped Hill’s question. She lambasted Christie for campaigning with Gov. Rick Scott in Florida, and she posed a rhetorical question of her own: “And you know, the real question is, is are they only doing private events because Rick Scott doesn't want to be seen with Chris Christie or because Chris Christie doesn't want to answer any questions? It's probably a little bit of both.”

To her credit, Hill did try to play devil’s advocate by pointing out that almost 70 percent of Americans said in a poll that the bridge controversy has not changed their opinion of Christie. But that only allowed Wasserman Schultz to trot out the “we’re just scratching the surface of the investigation” line.

NBC has many impartial analysts they could have turned to for analysis of this story. But they chose a woman who has a vested interest in seeing Christie fall far and hard.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

KELLY O’DONNELL: Now, while we're here in Florida, Erica, I can tell you that Democrats are paying attention to this, too. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she represents Florida in Congress, she'll be doing some of her own public events to try to counter Christie's message. Erica?

ERICA HILL: Kelly O'Donnell in Ft. Lauderdale for us this morning. Kelly, thanks. And as we just heard from Kelly, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in Florida. She’s also chair of the Democratic National Committee and author of the book For The Next Generation. She joins us this morning. Good morning. Nice to have you with us.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Good morning, Erica. Thanks. Great to be with you.

HILL: So as we heard from Kelly, you're going to be making your way around the street – around the state, rather, to try to counter that message from Governor Christie. What specifically is it, though, you're trying to counter? Is it what he's saying and what may be related to New Jersey, or is it any potential presidential moves that could be coming up?



WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think, actually, former Republican National Committee chair –  chairman Michael Steele said it best in Florida yesterday when he said on the day that Chris Christie gets 20 subpoenas dropped on him, including a subpoena of his own gubernatorial office, instead of staying in New Jersey, hunkering down, focusing on the priorities of his constituents, whose ability to traverse the George Washington Bridge his staff blocked, he's in Florida, campaigning with another scandal-plagued governor and doing no public events, answering no questions. And you know, the real question is, is are they only doing private events because Rick Scott doesn't want to be seen with Chris Christie or because Chris Christie doesn't want to answer any questions? It's probably a little bit of both.

HILL: We should note in this new NBC News/Marist poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans say this entire scandal has not changed their opinion of Governor Christie. Do those numbers count for anything when you're looking at this, that Americans really aren't that fazed by it at this point?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I think there are –  we're just scratching the surface of the investigation. The New Jersey Assembly is rightly taking a hard look at just how deeply this goes. Chris Christie spent two hours after ignoring questions for more than 120 days and not wondering at all why four lanes of traffic were closed on the busiest bridge in the world and mired his constituents in traffic, blocked ambulances from being able to get their emergencies to their destination. It's stunning, and I think we're just scratching the surface here, and we'll see whether -- how close this actually got to Chris Christie being directly responsible for this.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.