The Morning Joe crew took it to their own network this morning over MSNBC’s handling of Dawn Zimmer and her sudden reversal after months of denials of political retribution in Hurricane Sandy relief funding. Nicolle Wallace blasted MSNBC’s other shows for its complete credulity in handling the Hoboken mayor and her claims that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threatened funding — never questioning her integrity, even though she spent months denying that Christie did any such thing. “She’s being propped up by this network,” Wallace accuses, and Joe Scarborough enthusiastically agrees (via The Corner):
At least two MSNBC personalties aren’t accepting the network’s reporting on Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegations against the Chris Christie administration quite yet. “All I’m asking is for somebody out there to actually ask a tough question or two of this lady, who has gotten a free ride for days,” Joe Scarborough said on his show on Tuesday.
Scarborough and Nicolle Wallace pushed back against critics of the New Jersey governor who are taking Zimmer’s claims that Christie’s lieutenant governor threatened to withhold Sandy-relief funds at face value. While Wallace admitted that Christie’s political aspirations would be finished if Zimmer’s allegations turn out to be true, she questioned the mayor’s timing to come forward with the revelations, saying it “stinks to me” as she is “being propped up” by MSNBC.
Both Jazz and I covered the shifting tales Zimmer has offered since last May. As late as ten days ago, Zimmer was still claiming that no such intimidation had taken place, as CNN noted in its report — because Zimmer flat-out denied the allegations to CNN itself. The other party to the conversation in which this threat allegedly took place — a fellow Democrat mayor — says she never heard any threat at all.
Usually, these kinds of issues prompt reporters to ask some tough questions, especially when the only evidence offered is a private diary from the accuser herself, and the funds in question flowed as they should have. The Daily Journal notes that Hoboken got its fair share of what has been distributed, although not what Zimmer wanted:
Zimmer is specifically addressing her city’s pursuit of funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. That program is administered by FEMA and provides grants to states and local governments after a major disaster for long-term measures that reduce the loss of life and property for future disasters.
New Jersey received nearly $300 million through that program after Sandy. Towns and counties submitted more than $14 billion in requests for thousands of projects through the New Jersey State Police’s Office of Emergency Management. Hoboken — which was underwater for days after Sandy — sought more than $100 million, including money to build seawalls and pumps and to buy vacant land.
The state, with nearly 47 times more demand than money available, used its $300 million for six programs. The two biggest programs cost $100 million each. One provides grants of up to $30,000 to homeowners to help them elevate their homes. The other pays for the first installment of what will be a $300 million effort to buy out homes in oft-flooded areas, such as Sayreville and South River.
The state used $50 million to give grants to all 21 counties for local and regional projects. That money was allocated in October. Hudson County, where Hoboken is, got $1.7 million. The top awards went to Ocean County, at $10.25 million, and Monmouth County, at $7.8 million; both of those shore counties were devastated by Sandy.
Next-biggest is a $25 million “energy allocation initiative,” which provides money to 146 governmental units for pursuing alternative energy options as a backup for when the power grid fails. The state says it had 400 requests statewide seeking around $125 million. Hoboken’s share is $142,080 — which it used, rather famously after recent days of media coverage, to buy a backup generator.
With that in mind — and with $70 million going directly to Hoboken residents and businesses — Zimmer’s claims look even less credible than ever. Those who don’t even bother to address these issues while interviewing Zimmer aren’t journalists, or even intellectually-honest analysts. They’re props. Perhaps MSNBC management should take some advice from its Morning Joe hosts and kick the props out from under Zimmer and the other hosts on their cable channel.
Update: To be fair, Noah Rothman finds evidence that MSNBC does assert a skeptical eye on allegations when it appears there is an axe to grind. That is, they do when the allegations target a Democrat:
But this MSNBC panel does make a good point. There is little value in lending too much credence to the story of one aggrieved individual with a clear axe to grind who is actively seeking to diminish the stature of a potentially central national political figure. Maybe the network and their guests should keep that in mind as they lend undue credence to the claims of just such a figure, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, as she lands on cable news program after cable news program insisting that her handwritten diary is evidence of a systematic intimidation campaign by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Maybe that kind of discretion is simply asking too much of this network and its contributors.
At least Morning Joe discussed it.