To Christie: “When you call me that, smile”

Washington, DC, has its own annual correspondents’ dinner. It is not off the record. In fact it is televised live, with clips and comments that quickly appear in the media. There are plenty of jabs back and forth. Many with considerable bite speak to an element of truth. They garner plenty of laughter. They are not, however, overly malicious, nasty, nor crude. They are not harshly accusatory and they avoid foul language.

Governor Christie last week set a low bar for this type of event. As the Jaffe Communications Morning Briefing reported, “In what will forever be remembered as his ‘I don’t give a shit speech’, Gov. Chris Christie delivered a Bulworth-inspired, expletive-filled tirade against the media during the New Jersey Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show that would have made many Iowa-based religious conservatives pray for his soul.” Forget the fact that this speech may not play well in Des Moines. That is Christie’s problem and is a result of his big mouth and poor judgment. That speech should not play well anywhere.

Kevin Roberts, Christie’s spokesperson, stated the acts of the night “including the governor’s obvious parody of himself, were in jest … That anyone would misrepresent the traditional lighthearted nature of the event is a disservice.” Christie started his tirade against Claude Brodesser-Akner of with several remarks, including derisive comments about Akner’s  former job and ending with “open your eyes, clean the shit out of your ears and pay attention.” Of Star-Ledger correspondents he said, “There will always be a place and a paycheck in their paper for angry drunks.” Does this sound like a “jest” and “light hearted?”

In the Virginian one cowboy says to another, “When you call me that, smile.” To me it sounded more like a sneer, from someone who is unhinged, losing control, foul-mouthed, angry, and mean-spirited. We realize things are not going well for the governor. New Jerseyans are fed up with him, and his national polls are an embarrassment. That is no excuse.

Tom Moran writes in a column that the reporter and show director Michael Symons worries the whole event could collapse. It’s time that New Jersey correspondents’ dinner hue closer to the Washington, DC, model. It is certainly time for the governor to apologize. It would be too bad if the event comes to an end because the governor sneered rather than smiled.  

Comments (5)

  1. deciminyan

    I have a problem with events like this in general – including the State House event and the National Correspondents’ Dinner. Ethical journalists should not be hobnobbing with elected officials. Rather, they should be friendly and courteous, but at arms length. Anything less compromises their journalistic integrity.

  2. Bill Orr (Post author)

    The purpose of the Washington, DC, correspondents’ dinner is to “acknowledge award winners, present scholarships, and give the press and the president an evening of friendly appreciation.” Roll Call in Washington also sponsors an annual Congressional baseball game for charity between Democrats and Republicans. (I believe something similar also occurs in NJ.) Such events provide an opportunity for individuals who operate in opposite camps and are are in frequent conflict an opportunity for a one-day truce , to have fun together, and to understand each other better. In Washington the event has become a celebrity show complete with a red carpet, and in the NJ event it degenerated into nastiness and vulgarity. Nonetheless the goal of getting opponents together for a friendly event once a year seems worthwhile.  


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