Dem Senator Scolds Andrea Mitchell for Politicizing Storm to Attack Christie

On MSNBC on Tuesday, New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker admonished host Andrea Mitchell for trying to use the weekend blizzard to attack Republican Governor Chris Christie. After Mitchell wondered if Christie had “risked” his presidential campaign “by his response to flooding from the winter storms back home,” Booker pushed back: “Literally some families on this – in this community lost everything. It’s not a time for politics.”

Not only did Booker refuse to attack Christie, but the Senator even defended him: “I’ve been in touch with the Governor himself, in touch with his team, since before the storm, during the storm, after the storm. State, local leaders, we’re all just pitching in. We don’t care about presidential politics right now.”

Undeterred, Mitchell stayed on the attack: “Well, certainly New Jersey residents are reacting, some of those whom we spoke to. Let me play some of that for you.” A long soundbite played of one unidentified man ranting:

[Christie] should get down here and just take a look. So then he’ll know what he’s talking about. He’s not in touch with what’s going on. I lost my truck, too, back here. And I just called my insurance agent for the truck and I was just telling her about what Christie was saying and she said, “Yeah, I know, he’s making me sick to my stomach.” That’s how everybody’s feeling.

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Mitchell turned back to Booker and demanded: “Why does the Governor, who did so well showing his bipartisanship in the response to Superstorm Sandy, now take the risk of going back to New Hampshire before taking care of business in south Jersey?”

Booker again lectured:

Andrea, I can’t speak to his calculations about where he wants to be....And again, I want to say, I’ve been in touch with the Governor’s office today. Chief of staff must have called us numerous times, not about politics, not about press, but really about how they can help us get the job done. And there’s a great partnership going on right now between the state and the federal government....So the partnerships are so important right now, I don’t want to strain them with politics.

Despite Booker clearly rejecting any attempt to smear Christie, msnbc.com falsely captioned an online video of the exchange by claiming Booker had "expressed outrage" at the Governor:

On Monday, Mitchell wasted no time using the storm’s aftermath to slam Christie.

Here is a full transcript of Mitchell’s January 26 interview with Booker:

12:04 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: Chris Christie’s only shot for glory would be placing well in New Hampshire, where he’s been spending so much time. But has he now risked that by his response to flooding from the winter storms back home in New Jersey?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Why are you here in New Hampshire campaigning instead of there helping, surveying the damages done by the coastal flooding from the storm?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, because it’s already done.

WOMAN: I have friends, family calling, sending me videos...

CHRISTIE: Where?

WOMAN: ...pictures all over the state of flooding.

CHRISTIE: All over the state? All over the state, really? I don't know what you expect me to do. You want me to go down there with a mop?

MITCHELL: Well, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is surveying damage across his state today and joins me now from Wildwood. Senator, first of all, your reaction to the way the Governor handled this?

SEN. CORY BOOKER [D-NJ]: Well, I don’t think this is a time – if you see where I’m standing right now, where the bulkhead broke, brought water in. Literally some families on this – in this community lost everything. It’s not a time for politics. It’s a time for all of us to pull together and help. I’ve been in touch with the Governor himself, in touch with his team, since before the storm, during the storm, after the storm. State, local leaders, we’re all just pitching in. We don’t care about presidential politics right now. There’s just a lot of tough things going on right now in this neighborhood.

MITCHELL: Well, certainly New Jersey residents are reacting, some of those whom we spoke to. Let me play some of that for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He should get down here and just take a look. So then he’ll know what he’s talking about. He’s not in touch with what’s going on. I lost my truck, too, back here. And I just called my insurance agent for the truck and I was just telling her about what Christie was saying and she said, “Yeah, I know, he’s making me sick to my stomach.” That’s how everybody’s feeling. And for him to say, “What do you want me to do, come down there with a mop?” Really? You’re gonna need a lot more than a mop.

MITCHELL: It does sort of raise questions. Why does the Governor, who did so well showing his bipartisanship in the response to Superstorm Sandy, now take the risk of going back to New Hampshire before taking care of business in south Jersey?

BOOKER: Again, Andrea, I can’t speak to his calculations about where he wants to be. The reality is, my focus is on really addressing some of the concerns that gentleman had. You know, we’ve talked to families in this neighborhood already who are looking for help with FEMA, who are looking for help with their insurance companies that are already denying claims. There’s a lot of work to do here. I’m happy to be here with a Republican congressman, I’m happy to be here with the local mayor. We’re going to roll up our sleeves, we’re going to do the best we can to be here for the people when they need us.

And again, I want to say, I’ve been in touch with the Governor’s office today. Chief of staff must have called us numerous times, not about politics, not about press, but really about how they can help us get the job done. And there’s a great partnership going on right now between the state and the federal government to try to assess to see hopefully we qualify for disaster declarations so federal money can be released for this area. So the partnerships are so important right now, I don’t want to strain them with politics. People here really need help and I want to make sure that they get the help that they deserve.

MITCHELL: Senator Booker, thanks very much. We'll be touching base, of course, with you and your people.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC