Chris Matthews Assailed Christie as New Nixon, Skips Clearing

When the Bridgegate scandal engulfed Chris Christie in January, MSNBC's Chris Matthews went wild, repeatedly comparing the controversy to Watergate. On Thursday afternoon, federal officials revealed that the New Jersey governor had no prior knowledge of the planned traffic backup. Somehow, the Hardball anchor ignored the development. 

On January 8, 2014, the day the story broke, Matthews muttered, "Nixonian. It's so Nixonian." On January 10, Matthews theorized, "I grew up during Watergate. I got to tell you, it follows a certain pattern." On January 15, the cable journalist fixated, "Well, this is not yet a Watergate, but the more we learn about Chris Christie, the more he does look like Richard Nixon.

For seven straight shows, starting January 8, Matthews. Matthews (or one of his guests) hyped Christie as the new Nixon. 

On January 16, the anchor huffed, "Christie, by the way, might be able to weather the political storm, but he can't escape evidence." [MP3 audio here.] Shifting towards his favorite comparison, Matthews reminded, "If you want proof, take a look at President Nixon's approval ratings during Watergate." 

On Thursday's NBC Nightly News, colleague Brian Williams explained: 

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.

Matthews, apparently, didn't have time for this news. Instead, he simply moved onto another Republican scandal, GOP senatorial candidate Monica Wehby and the accusation that she lifted passages for her website from Karl Rove.

A transcript of Matthews's January 16 attack on Christie can be found below: 

CHRIS MATTHEWS: And in this case, I think it is going to come down to what happens in court. And I want to -- you talk about this. And then I'm going to tell you what happened to Nixon, because it's a very interesting parallel.


MATTHEWS: Christie, by the way, might be able to weather the political storm, but he can't escape evidence. If you want proof, take a look at President Nixon's approval ratings during Watergate. This is fascinating. In June of'72, the Watergate break-in took place. It was five months before Nixon's 49-state reelection victory over McGovern. For five months, the guy was floating high after the Watergate break- in and exposure of his people. That scandal didn't burst his approval ratings until much, much later. In January of'73, the following year, two of Nixon's aides were convicted of conspiracy, which started the real political downfall of Nixon. Nixon's approval ratings then tanked, going from 67 percent in the beginning of'73 down to 24 percent when he had to resign in'74.

So Nixon was able to bluff it. He had the POWs coming home. He won the -- the war was over. Everything was great, until the evidence came in. Now, Christie can do all the campaigning and showboating he wants, I will argue, but then again, he might as well, because he is going down anyway. He might as well have a good time.

— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.