The same network evening news shows that ignored vindictiveness by the Obama administration during October's government shutdown were up in arms Wednesday over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's "bridgegate" and the possible tarring it could give his image.
The MRC already counted 17 times more network coverage of Christie's controversy than of Obama's IRS scandal in the past six months. That same double standard was evident in the treatment given the Christie administration versus the non-coverage of any Obama administration wrongdoing during the shutdown.
Wednesday's NBC Nightly News put Christie's controversy on a level slightly lower than Watergate: "We begin tonight with a story of what some are calling an abuse of power and an act of political retribution by those close to one of the most prominent politicians in our country."
Anchor Brian Williams tied the story to the GOP as a whole: "Because of
a sudden and enormous traffic backup on that bridge this past
September, a scandal has now erupted around the Governor of New Jersey,
Chris Christie, a man a lot of Republicans regard as a consensus candidate for the party nomination in 2016."
ABC's Jim Avila emphasized the nastiness behind the move on Wednesday's World News: "Today, a series of e-mails and text messages reveals that Fort Lee's pain was deliberately engineered in a fit of political retribution by members of Governor Chris Christie's office, who triggered this mess with one short order to the agency that runs the George Washington Bridge."
That indignation contrasts with the MRC's account of the evening news coverage of the government shutdown. During the first two weeks of October, none of the networks showed scrutiny toward the Obama administration for closing national landmarks to score political points, even after a National Park Service ranger complained that "We've been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It's disgusting."
Concerning network coverage of the shutdown, the MRC reported :
"During the first 15 days of October, the network evening newscasts
highlighted 127 examples of ways the shutdown was hurting Americans —
from closed national parks and furloughed workers, to children denied
medical treatment for life-threatening illnesses and the suspension of
death benefits for the families of U.S. soldiers and Marines killed in
"Virtually absent from the coverage was any questioning of the Obama administration's tactics in implementing the shutdown. Eight stories talked about the barricading of the open-air World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., a site that is normally accessible 24 hours a day. None of the networks questioned why that particular memorial needed to be barricaded."
On Wednesday, both NBC and CBS led their evening news casts with the
Christie story, further evidence of their willingness to tout a
Republican administration's corruption while ignoring or downplaying a
NBC's Brian Williams made sure to emphasize the seriousness of Christie's plight. "I've heard a member of Congress say that it looks like the governor has put his constituents under a bus. This only happens at a dicey time for him because he is about to take a post giving him more visibility," he noted.
NBC News political director Chuck Todd asserted that the episode contributes to Christie's "bully" image: "The second is it re-enforces a negative stereotype that you and I both know has been out there for years about him, that he is just a bully at heart every once in a while and kind of mean. Well, this looks like this was a mean and bully-like decision."
CBS News political director John Dickerson called it "a bruise that's not going to go away easily" for Christie and added that "his opponents say he's a bully. This abuse of power in his administration gives support to that charge."
— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.