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'Nightline' Turns to Democrats to Slam Christie as a 'Bully'

To accompany ABC's tough interview of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Friday's Nightline quoted New Jersey Democrats slamming him as a vengeful "bully."

World News anchor Diane Sawyer noted that "critics remember the lure of Christie's brash personal style" before airing clips of Democrats pounding him. Sawyer pressed Christie repeatedly over New Jersey's bridge closure scandal, but she barely mentioned Benghazi in an October 2012 interview with President Obama, a month before the election.

Here are the two quotes ABC aired about Christie:

"He [Christie] is a bully. Simple as that. If you disagree with him, he's going to get you and he's going to stamp you out. And he's going to seek revenge," spat New Jersey state senator Richard Codey, a Democrat.

"The governor has certainly conducted himself over the last four years as the worst combination of bully and boss," said Barbara Buono, Christie's 2013 Democratic gubernatorial opponent.

In the interview, Sawyer asked Christie if he felt "clueless" about the behavior of his subordinates. She quoted critics of the investigation into the bridge controversy calling it a "scam" and a "whitewash." Yet when Sawyer interviewed Obama a month before the 2012 presidential election, ABC spent twenty seconds on Benghazi.

Her question to Obama didn't even make it into the tape of her interview; it was pushed to the next segment where ABC's Jake Tapper reported her question and Obama's response.

Below is a transcript of the Nightline segment:

ABC
NIGHTLINE
3/28/14
12:54 a.m. EST

DAN HARRIS: Tonight, an ABC News exclusive. Our Diane Sawyer going one on one with New Jersey governor Chris Christie. A man once considered the Republican Party's best hope to capture the White House in 2016 now finds himself embroiled in scandal after his top aides ordered traffic lanes shut down on a major bridge in an act of political revenge. So did Christie know about it? Should he have? And can he still run for president? Here's what he told Diane.

(Video Clip)
 
DIANE SAWYER (voice over): It was the scandal that threatened to derail the governor of New Jersey, the no-nonsense tough-talking Chris Christie.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (D), governor of New Jersey: You know, something may go down tonight but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart.

SAWYER: A rising political star with national aspirations. You'll remember, on America's busiest bridge for four days straight, drivers used to 30 minute commutes were suddenly locked in two to three to four-hour gridlock. Emergency vehicles delayed. Children in school buses, desperate people making calls to 911.

CALLER: It's an emergency and they are not still here.

SAWYER: And the provoking questions, could this all be political payback for a local mayor who hadn't supported Christie's re-election? And then we read text messages showing some of Christie's appointees and assistants seemed to be chortling, one of them saying, "Is it wrong that I'm smiling?"

And tonight, some of the people who wrote those e-mails have still not talked about what they said or did not say to Governor Christie. One of them, deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, seen here with the governor. Another, a member of the Port Authority, David Wildstein, rumbling about getting immunity. But until they do, the governor points out, a new report issued today clears him, and he sat down with me in his family home to explain why.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), New Jersey governor: This report says that I had no knowledge of it before it happened. Nor did I authorize it or have anything to do with it. And that's the truth.

SAWYER: (on camera) But does it make you feel clueless? Does it make you feel like what was wrong with me?

CHRISTIE: Not clueless. But it certainly makes me feel taken advantage of. And also, more importantly, I feel like I let people down by not knowing. Sometimes people do inexplicably stupid things.

SAWYER: (voice over) But critics point out, the report was commissioned by the Christie administration itself.

(On camera) I want to get to what everybody is saying about this report. Words are used, "whitewash," "expensive," "scam," that the taxpayers of New Jersey just paid for your lawyers to find you blameless.

CHRISTIE: Well a few things. First off, these are not my lawyers.

SAWYER: (on camera) But it's a law firm that you've been affiliated with in the past. You know one of the partners. It's chosen by the office.

CHRISTIE: Sure. There's probably hardly a law firm in this area that I haven't had some interaction with after being the United States attorney. But the bottom line is, that these people have their own professional and personal reputations. Six of them are former federal prosecutors. They're not going to whitewash anything for me.

SAWYER: (voice over) David Wildstein, a transportation official, said he once told Christie something about traffic.

(On camera) David Wildstein has said that at a 9/11 event, he talked to you about traffic. It's a little ambiguous exactly what. Did he?

CHRISTIE: I don't have any recollection of that, Diane. David was one of hundreds of people that I spoke to that day. I don't have any recollection of him saying anything. But I'll tell you this, I'll tell you what he didn't say. He didn't say hey, by the way, governor, I'm closing down some lanes on the George Washington Bridge to stick it to the mayor. Is that okay? That, I'd remember.

SAWYER: But critics remember the lure of Christie's brash personal style.

CHRISTIE: Damn, man, I'm governor. Could you just shut up for a second?

RICHARD J. CODEY (D), New Jersey state senator: He is a bully. Simple as that. If you disagree with him, he's going to get you and he's going to stamp you out. And he's going to seek revenge.

BARBARA BUONO (D), New Jersey state senator: The governor has certainly conducted himself over the last four years as the worst combination of bully and boss.

SAWYER: As you know, the word "bully," "bullying" comes up over and over again. Have you asked yourself, did I do anything to create the climate in which this happened?

CHRISTIE: Sure. I spent a lot of time the last 11 weeks, thinking about what did I do, if anything, to contribute to this? And I don't believe that I did. But I'm certainly disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to pick up these traits in these people.

SAWYER: You don't think there's a single possibility that they thought – in rough-and-tumble style, in Jersey politics style, that they thought this would please you?

CHRISTIE: No.

SAWYER: That this was for you?

CHRISTIE: No. I don't believe it was for me.

SAWYER: What did you say to your children? What did you say?

CHRISTIE: Our oldest son was home on break. And he asked me, did you do this? It was a tough question, that your son would ask you. And I said, no, I didn't. And he said, good, I'm glad.

SAWYER: Is it a change in the leadership style?

CHRISTIE: No. I am who I am. And for some people, they love it. And I will tell you, when I travel around New Jersey, I hear from most people, that that's the thing they love the most.

SAWYER: And what about Iowa?

CHRISTIE: I think they love me in Iowa, too, Diane. I've been there a lot. I think they love me there, too.

SAWYER: Has this been toughest time in your life?

CHRISTIE: Toughest time in my professional life. Not my personal life.

SAWYER: Were you at any point, thought maybe I'll step down? Maybe this is just too
– this is too much?

CHRISTIE: Never. Never. I'm just not a quitter.

SAWYER: For Nightline, I'm Diane Sawyer, here in New York.

— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.