REPORT: Fox News Buries Christie Bridge Scandal

Network's Coverage Of New Revelations Miniscule Compared To CNN, MSNBC

The day a major scandal broke involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Fox News devoted scant coverage to the developing story. On January 8, Fox devoted less than 15 minutes to the New Jersey bridge closure scandal, compared to more than two hours each on CNN and MSNBC.

New Revelations Link Christie Administration To Bridge Closure Scandal

NYT: NJ Bridge Closure Has “Exploded Into A Full-Bore Political Scandal For Gov. Chris Christie.” From the New York Times:

The mystery of who closed two lanes onto the George Washington Bridge -- turning the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., into a parking lot for four days in September -- exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday. Emails and texts revealed that a top aide had ordered the closings to punish the town's mayor after he did not endorse the governor for re-election.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, emailed David Wildstein, a high school friend of the governor who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge.

Later text messages mocked concerns that school buses filled with students were stuck in gridlock: “They are the children of Buono voters,” Mr. Wildstein wrote, referring to Mr. Christie's opponent Barbara Buono.

The emails are striking in their political maneuvering, showing Christie aides gleeful about some of the chaos that resulted. Emergency vehicles were delayed in responding to three people with heart problems and a missing toddler, and commuters were left fuming. One of the governor's associates refers to the mayor of Fort Lee as “this little Serbian,” and Ms. Kelly exchanges messages about the plan while she is in line to pay her respects at a wake.

Mr. Christie denied knowledge of the emails and said his staff was to blame. The growing scandal threatens to tarnish him at the moment he assumes an even larger position on the national stage, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and an all-but-certain candidate for his party's presidential nomination in 2016.

While the emails do not establish that the governor himself called for the lane closings, they show his staff was intimately involved, contrary to Mr. Christie's repeated avowals that no one in his office or campaign knew about them. In fact, the emails show, several staff members and appointees worked to cover up the scheme under the ruse that it was a traffic study. [The New York Times, 1/8/14]

Fox Coverage Of Christie Scandal Miniscule Compared To CNN, MSNBC

Fox Spent Less Than 15 Minutes Covering The Christie Bridge Story. On January 8, Fox's coverage of the Christie bridge scandal was dwarfed by rival networks CNN and MSNBC:

CNN: Fox's Minimal Coverage Of Scandal Could Be Politically Motivated. During an appearance on CNN's New Day, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter noted that it took Fox more than six hours to first cover the Christie scandal and suggested their aversion to the story may have been politically motivated:

KATE BOLDUAN: A lot of people, and a lot of people do watch Fox News, they're watching Fox News yesterday afternoon, they weren't really hearing anything about it.

STELTER: And of course liberal blogs that monitor Fox News noticed this and wondered 'Why is Fox News ignoring the story?" Later in the day Fox started to cover it, there was a segment for about five minutes at 9 p.m., but there were so many fewer mentions of the story on Fox that it got people wondering what was going on. And the reason why people are so curious is because Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, has in the past tried to enlist Chris Christie to run for president. He has been said to be a big fan of Chris Christie. So people sometimes watch Fox News, people like me at least, observers watch Fox News, to see -- to read the tea leaves and to wonder, 'is Fox avoiding the story to help Chris Christie?' Maybe we'll see today if they take it more seriously. [CNN, New Day, 1/9/14

Methodology: Media Matters reviewed the Nexis database and internal video archives for any discussion of Chris Christie on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC on January 8, 2014 from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. For the purposes of this study, only full segments were counted. Teases of upcoming discussions and passing mentions during other stories were excluded.