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ABC's George Stephanopoulos Knocks Rush Limbaugh for His 'Man Crush' on Chris Christie

According to Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has "a man-crush" on New Jersey's Chris Christie. The GMA host interviewed the governor on Thursday and hit the Republican on not cutting unemployment fast enough and on his handling of December's blizzard.

Regarding the state of New Jersey's turnaround, Stephanopoulos touted the talking points of the state's Democrats: "But some of your critics, some of the top Democrats in the state, say that your priorities are misplaced. One counted the number of the times you used jobs in the speech. Said it was four."

After being told by Christie that the level had come down almost a full point (from ten to 9.2) since taking office, the former Democratic operative turned journalist reminded, "Still above nine percent." The host followed-up with his remark about Rush Limbaugh.

As a back-door way of discussing 2012, Stephanopoulos joked, "Finally, Rush Limbaugh has something of a man-crush on you. He and many others are trying to get you into the presidential race."

Adopting a standard political cliche, he reminded, "Tip O'Neill said all politics is local. You came in for some criticism after the post-Christmas blizzard, including from former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani." Christie was then forced to watch a clip of Giuliani critiquing him.

Finally, the anchor continued the journalistic attack on Sarah Palin and her use of the word blood libel. "You think she knew what she was getting into with that," Stephanopoulos wondered,

A transcript of the January 13 segment, which aired at 7:43am EST, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the tragedy in Tucson usher in the era of civility President Obama called for last night? How will both parties get back to the business of facing our common challenges? Here to take on those questions this morning, one of the rising stars of the Republican Party, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Thanks for coming in this morning.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, did the President strike the right cords last night?

CHRISTIE: Yes. He did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you think of his speech?

CHRISTIE: I thought it was excellent. I thought he did exactly what you want a leader to do at a moment like this, which is to remind us of the things that we have in common. Remind us of the things that unite us rather than divide us. And try not to play politics at all. The President hit all those things last night. So, I was really happy to see what he did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're out there all the time with your constituents. I know you're doing another town hall meeting. Is this something that you expected- Does it feel like this is a moment for the entire country?

CHRISTIE: Yeah. I think, listen, I think we have to be reflective. I think we should be having this kind of reflection on a daily basis. This is not an unusual period of vitriol in our country. In politics, you look back, we can say almost every presidential campaign that you've seen, high levels of vitriol and anger and things that people probably didn't deserve to have being said about them. I think we have to constantly be examining ourselves for ourselves how we act as a civilize society. Doesn't mean we can't disagree. Of course we can disagree, but we should be looking at this all the time. Not just have a tragedy spur us to do it. We need to treat each other with some level of civility, even when we disagree with each other.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, Sarah Palin coming for some criticism today after using that term blood libel. You think she knew what she was getting into with that?

CHRISTIE: I don't know. I have no idea. But, what I would say is I I don't think anybody really believes that Governor Palin was trying to make someone get hurt or bring violence on. And I think she should have said that and left it at that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to your own State of the State. You were giving a big speech this week, as well. In your speech, you took credit for turning New Jersey around from being a basket case. But some of your critics, some of the top Democrats in the state, say that your priorities are misplaced. One counted the number of the times you used jobs in the speech. Said it was four. Your response?

CHRISTIE: Because we're creating jobs, not talking about it. When I came into office, unemployment was ten percent in New Jersey. We're still too high. We're at 9.2 percent, but we're down almost a full point in a year and we're below the national average now. Last month in November, one-

STEPHANOPOULOS: Still above nine percent.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, I said- I said, we're not good enough. And I didn't say we turned it around. What I said in the speech is, State of the State is improving. Getting better every day. And last month, in November, the last month we have for jobs in New Jersey, one of every five private-sector jobs created in America was created in New Jersey. So, our policies are helping to create jobs where the private sector wants to grow again. You can talk all you want about jobs. It's about creating them and putting people back to work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of our big issues is education reform. The former chancellor of the D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee was in the audience, watching your speech. The President has also hit those themes of educational reform a lot. Is this an issue, where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground?

CHRISTIE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Michelle Rhee is a Democrat. I had Mayor Cory Booker of Newark in the audience, as well. We're working on reforming the Newark public schools, together, with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook and the challenge grant he's given to the city of Newark. And I've said from the time of the campaign when I running in 2009 that President Obama and I agree on this issue. Agree much more than he did with my predecessor on the issues of real education reform. This is the transformational issue that can also bring both parties together, if we just rise above the interests, the special interests that want to protect the failed status quo.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tip O'Neill said all politics is local. You came in for some criticism after the post-Christmas blizzard, including from former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI: If he asked me my advice? I would have said, "They elected you governor, they got in an emergency. They expect you to be there. You have to be there if you're a governor, a mayor or even a president, if it's important enough."

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said you shouldn't have been at Disney World.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I know you find it shocking that two, strong-willed Italian guys from the north east will disagree on something. I have great respect for the mayor. We disagree on this one. But, we agree on so many more issues that Mayor Giuliani and I, two former U.S. attorneys will disagree on things at times on things. This is one that we do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Rush Limbaugh has something of a man-crush on you. [Christie laughs.] He and many others are trying to get you into the Presidential race. You've said time and time again you're not running. I take you at your word. But try to encapsulate what you think the Republican Party needs, who they need to nominate, what kind of a person in 2012.

CHRISTIE: We need to nominate someone who the american people believe walk the walk, not just talk the talk, on reducing the size of government and bringing our tax structure and our spending, most importantly, under control. And that person has to prove they're willing to do the difficult things, not just talk about them. Because they've heard plenty of talk, especially from our party. I said this fall, we were campaigning for Republican candidates around the country. This is the Republican Party's last chance. It's put up or shut up time for us now that we won the House. We better do what we said we were going to do, or we're going to be sent into the wilderness without a compass for a long time and we're going to deserve it. Because we've talked about it, now let's do it.

- Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.