As the New York Daily News continues to brutalize Chris Christie with biting covers and vicious editorials, the wealthy publisher of the tabloid is standing up for the scandal-plagued New Jersey governor.
In an appearance on the political talk show The Mclaughlin Group, which aired this weekend, Mort Zuckerman struck a markedly different tone from his newspaper as he defended Christie against implications that he was responsible for his aide shutting down two lanes of the George Washington Bridge in an act of apparent political retribution.
"The best case is... that he didn't know anything about it. It's entirely possible," Zuckerman said. "There are many things that happen in any kind of state government that simply do not come across the desk of a governor."
He added, "I did think that in the presentation that he made, in the press conference that he made, I thought he came across very well given what he had to say. It was the best he could do. I still think this is not the end of Gov. Christie because he's a man of enormous talent, I have to say. I worked with him on another matter and I thought he was just fabulous and very direct and very open."
Zuckerman also dismissed the notion that the scandal might be the end of Christie's White House ambitions.
"If what he says is the truth, and I can't imagine at this stage of the game that it wouldn't be the truth, I think it's a bump, it's not the end of his career," he said.
Zuckerman's faith in Christie is apparently not shared by his newspaper's editorial staff, which frequently — though not uniformly — champions Democratic positions and candidates. Thursday's edition put Christie on the cover with an illustrated thought bubble containing a picture of the White House, and a scoffing all-caps headline: "FAT CHANCE NOW, CHRIS." The editorial inside began, "In the best possible light, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie built a top staff of lying thugs who threatened lives and safety to serve his political ends. If not, Christie is a lying thug himself."
The next day, the News cover declared Christie's press conference "PATHETIC," with an editorial describing it as a "one-hour-and-forty-seven-minute self-serving, self-pitying display of contrition [that] was a climactic act in a brazen cover-up that threatens to further unravel his political career."
If Zuckerman's assessment of the controversy seems generous, it's likely because he has long cheered the idea of a President Christie. In the campaign book Double Down, the authors report that Zuckerman was among a handful of top-level finance executives and Republican fundraisers who confronted Christie in 2012 as Mitt Romney was flailing in the primaries and urged him to run — pledging to use their fortunes to get him elected.
A spokesman for Zuckerman did not respond to a request for comment.
Update - January 13, 2014, 12:24 PM EST: An earlier version of this story described the Daily News as a "Democratic tabloid." It has been updated to more precisely reflect the editorial leanings of the paper. H/T Kombiz Lavasany
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at email@example.com.
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