CNN Asks If Chris Christie Is a 'Bully'

While touting both Republican Chris Christie and Democrat Hillary Clinton as "the two hottest politicians," CNN's Jessica Yellin chipped away at the Republican's status by asking if he was a "bully." She said nothing negative about Clinton, on Tuesday evening's OutFront.

"Our sixth story OutFront: is Chris Christie a bully?" Yellin introduced the segment, centered on the New Jersey governor's in-your-face style with reporters and constituents. She only asked questions, but it echoed an NBC panel from a year ago which ran down Christie as a "bully" who wouldn't win over the rest of the country.

Yellin teed up Obama pollster Cornell Belcher: "Cornell, let me ask you, the combative style, it does work in New Jersey. But is it a little bit of a trick, like, it's his shtick he has that might not play in middle America if he runs for president?"

And she tempered Christie's popularity while leaving Clinton alone:

"There's a Quinnipiac poll from the beginning of the month and it shows that Christie and Hillary Clinton are the two hottest politicians, meaning people have the most favorable or warm feelings about them. And, yet, Kevin, I'm going to put this one to you, Republican voters, among them Christie falls behind. So, why is he lagging in his own party?"

In her last report on Clinton's presidential prospects, on the August 13 edition of The Situation Room, Yellin said nothing negative about her. "Washington, D.C. in August, the Hillary-for-president rumor mill is buzzing," she reported. "An outside PAC called 'Ready for Hillary' has raised more than $1.25 million basically to clear the field for her entry."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on OutFront on August 27 at 7:35 p.m. EDT:

JESSICA YELLIN: Our sixth story OutFront: is Chris Christie a bully? The New Jersey governor taking down another reporter calling him, quote, "a complete idiot" on a sports radio show – yes, it happened. Today, The New York Daily News fired back with this cover, "Who you calling an idiot, fatso!" That's a quote, I'm not saying it.

Of course, this isn't the first time Christie has found himself in the middle of a high-profile feud. He's taken on members of his own party, including Senator Rand Paul and House Speaker John Boehner. So does Chris Christie like to fight just a little too much? OutFront tonight, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, two of my favorite men from Washington. Good men in Washington, and CNN contributors. Hi, guys.

So look, we know that Christie loves going after the media. Let's play some of his most memorable moments, and then we'll talk.

(Video Clip)

Gov. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-N.J.): Did I stay on topic? Are you stupid?

Thank you all very much and I'm sorry for the idiot over there.

It's ridiculous, silly. I mean, I don't mean to demean what you all do, but this is silly.

You must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America. Because you think that's a confrontational tone, then you should really see me when I'm pissed.

(End Video Clip)

YELLIN: It's entertaining, but, Kevin, is the governor the one with the thin skin?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN contributor: No, look, this is part of the appeal of Chris Christie, that many New Jersey folks – many New Jersey voters have responded to, the fact that he's blunt, the fact that he has his regular guy appeal and he says it – he says what he means. So, I think that is the part that many voters find appealing. But I do think that there – at a certain point, always being combative with the media, you're right, Jessica, always being combative with the media, that only gets you so far because many voters also know that scrutiny from the media, that's something that comes with the job.

YELLIN: Yes, it's always popular, though, to pick on the media, but it only goes so far.

Cornell, let me ask you, the combative style, it does work in New Jersey. But is it a little bit of a trick, like, it's his shtick he has that might not play in middle America if he runs for president?

BELCHER: I think that's the strategic pickle that I think the folks around the governor is going to have to deal with. Look, I think which makes him unique and refreshing and a larger-than-life figure in New Jersey when those little old ladies in middle America who are really likely voters who go to church every Sunday and don't watch football or don't know anything about sports reporters, when they start paying attention, I think it becomes problematic.

And particularly -- I mean, Americans are -- you know, Americans will forgive a lot in political leaders, as we've seen over the years. I mean, they'll let a lot of flaws go, but what they consistently seem to punish is anger and meanness. We tend not to elect mean or angry people at a national level. Look, say what you will about Carter, you know, Reagan, you know, Bush and Obama, no one sees them as mean-spirited, angry people. It's quite often the opposite. So I think it becomes problematic in Middle America.

YELLIN: But interestingly, he is still seen as warm. There's a Quinnipiac poll from the beginning of the month and it shows that Christie and Hillary Clinton are the two hottest politicians, meaning people have the most favorable or warm feelings about them. And, yet, Kevin, I'm going to put this one to you, Republican voters, among them Christie falls behind. So, why is he lagging in his own party?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he has gotten a certain level of really good press because he has been -- he's had a willingness to criticize folks like Rand Paul and criticize folks like John Boehner, and that hasn't got him the certain degree of goodwill within the party. Many people see him as either scornful of the party or lecturing the party rather than being a bit of a team player.

And I think this goes to a point that I think that Cornell was making, which is that this may play in New Jersey, but when you go beyond New Jersey and you start to go to places like Sioux City, Iowa, or Manchester, New Hampshire, it's not only the reporters that are asking tough questions or in the minds of Chris Christie asking silly questions. Many of those voters demand to have the same level of scrutiny. They want to – they want to scrutinize the candidates.

So that becomes a very big challenge for him if he's looking at a 2016 race which is that it may play well on YouTube, it may play well within the New Jersey media, but when you're doing it every single day, sometimes three, four times a day on a campaign trail, on a presidential race, it's not going to play as well with those audiences.

BELCHER: The moment he calls a little old lady in Iowa in the dead of winter an idiot for asking a tough question, his campaign's over.

YELLIN: It will be a lot of fun for us to cover, though, gentlemen. Good to see you both.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014