Double Standard: NBC Gives News Christie Innocent In Bridgegate Scandal 38 Secs; Spent Nearly 5 Mins When Story Broke

An enormous development in the Bridgegate scandal broke late Thursday afternoon when federal officials reported that they have cleared New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) of any wrong-doing relating to the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013. 

When it came to the major broadcast networks covering this huge development, ABC and CBS punted on the story and refused to cover it in their Thursday night newscasts. NBC Nightly News did cover the story, however, but only in the form of a news brief that lasted for 38 seconds.

This stands in stark contrast to the nearly five minutes (4 minutes and 55 seconds to be exact) that NBC’s evening newscast devoted to Bridgegate when it broke mid-morning on January 8. According to the Media Research Center's Scott Whitlock, “the big three” networks devoted a combined 88 minutes of coverage to the story in its first two days.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported that: 

A major headline this evening in the federal investigation into New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration. Federal officials tell NBC News that, after nine months, investigators have concluded there is no evidence that Governor Christie had advance knowledge of any politically motivated scheme to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge, which is the world's busiest span. This is the federal investigation, mind you. While a separate grand jury continues to investigate over alleged abuses involving the Port Authority, no headline tonight. The headline here, however, the federal charges are now ruled out for Chris Christie and the affair that came to be known as Bridgegate.

An article posted on NBC 4 New York’s website noted that the investigation is still “ongoing,” but did determine that “authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.”

While Williams said the news of Christie’s innocence was a “major headline,” he described the controversy on January 8 as “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.” 

During that same program, he tied the story to the entire Republican Party: “[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.”

In discussing the news with Williams that night, NBC News political director Chuch Todd asserted that the Bridgegate controversy “re-enforces a negative stereotype that you and I both know has been out there for years about him, that he is just a bull at heart every once in awhile and kind of mean.”

In another example of this double-standard, the evening newscasts on ABC and CBS found plenty of time to cover the Christie story when it broke on January 8. That night, ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer covered it for two minutes and 49 seconds while the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley spent five minutes and 14 seconds talking about the story that CBS News political director John Dickerson deemed “a bruise that’s not going to go away easily” for Christie.

The complete transcript form the news brief that aired on NBC Nightly News on September 18 is transcribed below.

NBC Nightly News
September 18, 2014
7:09 p.m. Eastern    

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: The Investigation]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: A major headline this evening in the federal investigation into New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration. Federal officials tell NBC News that, after nine months, investigators have concluded there is no evidence that Governor Christie had advance knowledge of any politically motivated scheme to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge, which is the world's busiest span. This is the federal investigation, mind you. While a separate grand jury continues to investigate over alleged abuses involving the Port Authority, no headline tonight. The headline here, however, the federal charges are now ruled out for Chris Christie and the affair that came to be known as Bridgegate.

2016 Presidential Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Double Standards Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News New York Government & Press Bridgegate Brian Williams Chuck Todd Chris Christie
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