Just How Obsessed Were the Sunday Shows with Bridgegate?

by Patrick Brennan

As Rich pointed out below, this morning’s political talk shows were amazingly obsessed with the news that some of Chris Christie’s top aides appear to have been involved in causing a serious traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, between New York and New Jersey. It was indeed something of a slow news week, but the past seven days saw terrifying advances made by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and Republican talk about how they’d like to address the problem, the release of an important account of how the Obama administration handled national security, and the death of one of the key figures in Israeli history. But with certain exceptions, you wouldn’t know it: As Rich said, the New Jersey scandal is a legitimate, important story, but the Sunday shows fell over themselves to offer incredibly comprehensive coverage of it and idle speculation about how it’ll affect a potential presidential candidate’s fate two or three years down the road.

Here’s how long each program took before they deigned to discuss something other than the scandal:

Meet the Press: 33 minutes. After having on the mayor of Fort Lee (the town most affected by the traffic jam), airing a report from Iowa on the scandal’s impact, and suggesting that viewers weigh in on Meet the Press’s Facebook page (among other things), the NBC program’s roundtable finally, at 11:03 a.m. New York time, turned to discussing the release of Secretary of Defense Bob Gates’s explosive memoir. Thankfully, just eight minutes later, at 11:11, they returned to the Christie controversy.

This Week: 22 minutes. ABC’s Sunday program spoke with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani about the scandal, aired a report from New Jersey, had on Judy Smith, a crisis-management professional whose story has been turned into the cable-TV show Scandal, and even ran clips of late-night comedians cracking jokes at Christie’s expense. At 10:22 a.m., more than a third of the way through the program, stand-in host Martha Raddatz finally steered the conversation away from the traffic tiff, to discussing Bob Gates’s new book.

Fox News Sunday: 14 minutes. Fox’s Sunday show had the network’s pundits discuss the political fallout from the Christie scandal for about ten minutes; at 10:14, host John Roberts welcomed on Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) and Steve Southerland (R., Fla.) to discuss government efforts to fight poverty.

Face the Nation: 2.5 minutes. The show’s intro featured the Christie controversy heavily, and host Bob Schieffer kicked off an interview with Marco Rubio by asking him about it, but the Florida senator gamely said he didn’t know much about the controversy and wanted to reserve judgment until all the facts are known. Schieffer moved on to a wide-ranging interview with the senator. Schieffer and Face’s producers deserve credit here, for covering the controversy (they had on a New Jersey state representative who’s been involved in the issue), but also ably covering the other key stories of the week — the revelations from Gates’s memoir, the carnage in Iraq, Ariel Sharon’s death, and the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and Republican proposals to change federal welfare programs.