Stop helping Chris Christie rehabilitate his image

Last year, Christie predicted Trump would never try to stop a peaceful transition after the election. Mainstream media shouldn’t take him seriously now.


Citation Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Chris Christie is making the media rounds promoting his new book — and laying the groundwork for his own political future — while also professing his shock at former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and pattern of incitement that led to the events of January 6. Christie was the subject of a special that aired Monday night on CNN, as part of its Being… series profiling various political figures, in addition to appearances on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour and Morning Joe, in addition to ABC News where he is a contributor.

During his media tour and political appearances, Christie has received generally warm coverage for delivering a “tough message” to Republican audiences, which apparently puts him on a “collision course with his one-time ally.” The problem here is that so much of Christie’s media tour is about his personal feelings, rather than the fact that he was profoundly wrong not only about Trump’s entire political career, but also about the specific event to which he attributes his political break with the former president.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, Christie insisted that Trump would accept the results. Despite getting such a basic prediction 100% wrong, he still wants to reestablish himself as an important part of the country’s discourse, and media outlets are failing to hold him accountable. Far from being a voice of reason in Republican politics, he was part of the problem the entire time, essentially telling the public to ignore warning signs that were obviously there. So why should anyone listen to him now?

The weekend before the 2020 election, Christie appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and assured the panel that Trump would be prepared to concede the election if it didn’t go his way — even making the outlandish claim that “a lot of the stuff you've heard him saying at rallies indicate that.”

In fact, Trump had been making false statements at his rallies, telling various lies about mail-in ballots. And by November 1 he had long been refusing to promise an orderly transition of power. (Stephanopoulos and the other panel members failed to call out Christie’s blatantly false statement — the discussion simply continued on with election predictions.)

And while Christie expressed optimism that Trump would indeed win the election, he also said the president knew that “not leaving the White House, putting up that kind of stink in terms of a peaceful transition, just is not the way he wants to leave.”

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Citation From the November 1, 2020, edition of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos

Christie also appeared the night before the election with Canadian outlet CTV News and repeated that there was “no question in my mind that President Trump will participate in a peaceful transfer of power” if he didn’t win. He also said Trump and Biden were “both responsible men” who would follow the country’s traditions depending on the result. “Looking forward to coming back after the election,” Christie told anchor Evan Solomon at the close of the interview, “and we can see how wrong I might have been.”

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Citation From the November 2, 2020, edition of CTV News’ Power Play with Evan Solomon

Even though nearly everyone else saw Trump’s future coup attempt coming, it appears that nobody has asked Christie about just “how wrong” he was. (Instead, Christie’s dissent from Trump’s post-election propaganda was often reported as straight news, devoid of any context.)

CNN anchor Dana Bash gave Christie a mostly sympathetic interview on Monday, in which he discussed how he felt “physically sick to my stomach” as Trump falsely declared victory on election night, accusing his opponents of stealing the election.

Bash did ask Christie for his response to the idea that he had been an “enabler” of Trump over the previous five years, to which Christie responded that it was “ridiculous” to think Trump wouldn’t have become president without his help. Instead, he explained that since 2016, “I wanted to try to make him the best candidate he could be and if he won, ultimately, the best president he could be.”

Even here, Christie has not been held accountable for the role he played in putting up a facade of political respectability for Trump in the run-up to the 2020 election, even though every word he said in that period was obviously wrong.

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Citation From the November 15, 2021, edition of CNN’s Being…Chris Christie

DANA BASH (CNN ANCHOR): Take me back to election night 2020. You're watching the then-president, and he starts talking, and you do what?

CHRIS CHRISTIE (FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY): I felt absolutely sick to my stomach, physically sick to my stomach watching him stand behind the seal of the president of the United States in the East Room of the White House saying something that I knew, at that moment, he couldn't prove was true. But he was saying it as if it was an absolute fact.

BASH: You called that speech “one of the most dangerous pieces of political rhetoric I have ever heard in my life.” That's a big statement.

CHRISTIE: Well, it is a big statement, but it's true, and all you need to know to back that up is to see how many people today still believe it.

BASH: So, people are going to be listening to you and thinking, “Give me a break. He was there almost from the beginning,” and you're an enabler of Donald Trump. How do you respond to that?

CHRISTIE: You know, I think people who make those kind of accusations to somebody who's trying to make the country better don't understand what politics is all about and what government is all about. Any time I objected to the president's conduct, either from a policy or personal perspective, I said it to him. That's the kind of relationship we have. I didn't have to hold back and I didn't.

BASH: Do you accept any responsibility for what happened after Election Day?

CHRISTIE: Oh, I — responsibility?

BASH: Yeah.

CHRISTIE: No. I don't --

BASH: As somebody who helped him along the way. You helped him get to where he was.

CHRISTIE: I don't consider myself so important that without my help Donald Trump wouldn't have been president, wouldn't have been able to do the things he did. That's ridiculous. It was clear to me he was going to be the Republican nominee and we had a relationship. So I wanted to try to make him the best candidate he could be and if he won, ultimately, the best president he could be. I don't make any apologies for that. I was one very small part of the effort to help make him president. So the responsibility I'll take is I voted for him twice. I admit that and I wouldn't change my vote.

The public does not have any pressing need for insights from conservatives like Christie, who are now trying to rehabilitate their images by talking about why Trump is bad for the country. Instead, the question that ought to be asked of people like Christie is why they were so wrong about the threat that Trump posed, and what this says about the nature of the conservative politics that governed the country for four years.