Chris Christie Administration Says MSNBC Is A Partisan Network: True

New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie is in the middle of two scandals, the bridge lane closing, and use of Hurricane Sandy relief funds for tourism advertisements (where Christie himself was prominently featured while running for re-election). Yesterday MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki broke the news of a third scandal. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says the Christie administration has withheld Sandy relief funds because she did not give her approval to a redevelopment plan in the city.

Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage, mayor allegesTwo senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc. —

“I’d be more than willing to testify under oath and – and answer any questions and provide any documents, take a lie detector test,” Zimmer said, referring to the Christie administration’s denials. “And, you know, my question back to them is, ‘Would all of you? Would all of you be willing do that same thing, to testify under oath, to take a lie detector test?’”

In response, the Chris Christie administration released the following statement:

Chris Christie’s Office Goes Off On MSNBC: ‘A Partisan Network That Has Been Openly Hostile’ — “MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week. Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama Administration approves the next rounds of funding. The Governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she’s ‘very glad’ he’s been our Governor. It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television.”

So the questions are, with the wall-to-wall Chris Christie coverage on MSNBC, does it add up to partisanship on the part of the cable news network, and are they “openly hostile to Governor Christie”?

On the first charge, the Christie administration is correct, MSNBC is a partisan network. I know a lot of liberals probably don’t like a fellow liberal saying this, but the truth is MSNBC does have a liberal bias. We can argue whether the mainstream media has a liberal bias, but there is no arguing when it comes to MSNBC. The issues they choose to cover are informed by this bias, but there’s an important distinction I would like to make. MSNBC’s partisanship does not automatically equate to factually inaccurate reporting (as it often does on Fox News), it simply means they more often choose to focus their attention on stories revolving around conservatives and Republicans instead of liberals and Democrats.

This is another case where I’m not about to get sucked into the false equivalence vortex. Fox News is a partisan network, and often blatantly reports inaccurate information for purely partisan purposes. I think some MSNBC personalities get a bit rambunctious, and maybe slightly carried away at times, but at the heart of the two networks is a very different culture. There are some on the Right who are now saying MSNBC is a wing of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), but I’m afraid that charge falls flat. MSNBC, particularly in prime time, but also on weekend mornings, is hosted by openly liberal personalities. Yes, they likely all vote Democratic, but I see little evidence to support the idea that Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, or Steve Kornacki are regurgitating DNC talking points. What they are doing is covering political events with a liberal perspective.

And conservatives can say this is wrong, and they can say it proves MSNBC is not a news organization, but actually, that’s beside the point, because the liberal tendencies of MSNBC do not disqualify them from producing well-researched stories that are factually accurate. Whether you want to call them a legitimate source for news or not really doesn’t matter. They can focus entirely on corruption, cronyism, and unethical behavior within the ranks of the Republican Party, and do so with every minute of airtime, and that does not mean their reporting is wrong. MSNBC’s reporting can be both accurate and finely tuned into the antics of the American Right.

As for the second charge, MSNBC is relentlessly covering the three Christie scandals, and I’m sure the Christie administration would rather the spotlight turn away to another story, but that does not mean the network is “openly hostile” to the governor. There’s reasonable evidence in all three of these scandals that warrant coverage. I think MSNBC could stand to talk about a few other things, because they are falling into the trap of cable news where the focus is on one story 24/7, but again, that doesn’t mean the network is hostile, particularly if their reporting shows the Christie administration’s actions are antithetical to their public image. Christie was elected because he said he was above politics, or in the words of Bob Slydell (John C. McGinley — Office Space, 1999), “Boy that’s just a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.” But it appears Governor Christie, or at least his administration, is not above the corruption common in New Jersey politics, and that means MSNBC is not out of bounds in their coverage, especially when that coverage is of a person with presidential aspirations.

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