In January, the networks deluged Americans with coverage on Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal, offering a staggering 88 minutes in less than 48 hours. Late on Thursday night, a Democrat-led investigation failed to find evidence conclusively linking the New Jersey governor to the 2013 traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge.
On Friday, CBS and NBC allowed a scant 32 seconds to this important development. ABC's Good Morning America, despite a two-hour run time, completely ignored Christie's clearing. (Instead, the supposed news program devoted three minutes to the phenomenon of ugly Christmas sweaters.)
A study by the Media Research Center in January found that, between January 8 and 10, 2014, ABC, CBS and NBC fixated on the investigation for 88 minutes. NBC provided the heaviest coverage, over 34 minutes. CBS hyped the story for 30 minutes. ABC managed just under 23 minutes.
The Bridgegate coverage in January included excited language, such as Today's Kelly O'Donnell intoning that "the crisis feeds into critics' perceptions that Christie fosters hardball tactics." On ABC's GMA, Jim Avila ramped up the danger level, announcing "it was Governor Chris Christie's worst day in politics ever." On CBS This Morning, Elaine Quijano deemed it "the biggest test yet of Christie's political career."
In contrast, on Friday's Today, Natalie Morales briefly (and blandly) noted, "And a new report from New Jersey lawmakers finds no evidence that Governor Chris Christie was involved in last year's politically motivated traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge." [MP3 audio here.]
On CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell quickly observed, "A preliminary report from the legislature's report says Christie had no advance knowledge of the shutdown.
The Daily Beast pointed out the investigation was "conducted by a Democrat-led state legislative committee." CBS and NBC missed this key point.
The Associated Press on Thurday night explained:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers probing politically motivated traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge last year have found no evidence that Gov. Chris Christie was involved in the scheme. They did not rule out the possibility, however, as they have been unable to interview several witnesses.
A transcript of the two December 5 segments:
NATALIE MORALES: And a new report from New Jersey lawmakers finds no evidence that Governor Chris Christie was involved in last year's politically motivated traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: NJ "Bridgegate" Report; Lawmakers Say Gov. Chris Christie Not Involved]
MORALES: But the panel says two former Christie aides acted with little regard for public safety when they ordered lanes closed in the area.
CBS This Morning
NORAH O'DONNELL: New York/New Jersey's Star-Ledger says investigators have found no evidence linking Governor Chris Christie to Bridgegate. Last year, two Christie aides ordered lane closures at the George Washington bridge that caused massive traffic jams. A preliminary report from the legislature's report says Christie had no advance knowledge of the shutdown.