Careful what you call Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump

Conservatives and other media types are tripping over themselves to point out the absurdity inherent in Chris Christie’s recent endorsement of Donald Trump. And they’re right to do so. Whether he made the move out of spite for Marco Rubio or simply because he is angling for a cabinet position in the seemingly-inevitable Trump administration, Christie clearly has some ulterior motive.

But there’s no need to point to Christie’s past comments on the Donald as evidence for his sincerity deficit. Indeed, to prove his decision to back Trump falls somewhere short of wholehearted, one needn’t look past the Wall Street Journal’s coverage:*

Christie embraces Trump

You see, we’ve all seen a Chris Christie embrace, and that’s not it.  In case the image isn’t already singed into your retinae, it will be now:

christie-cowboys-hug

Christie admittedly failed to complete that ill-advised effort to enfold Jerry Jones, but you can at least see that his failure was not due to lack of envelopatory intent. His endorsement of Trump, by contrast, is hardly deserving  of the appellation ’embrace’.

And while this may seem hardly worth highlighting (though cosmic insignificance hasn’t stopped me before, see, e.g. every other post on this blog), I would argue that how the media chooses to describe Chris Christie’s putative cuddles is actually an issue of potentially enormous import to his political career.

Remember that time Christie hugged Obama, right after Hurricane Sandy, and right before the 2012 election? Even if you don’t, conservatives haven’t forgotten — and have held a grudge against CC (or is it XX?) ever since. Back in July of 2015 — over two and a half years after the event transpired — Breitbart wrote as follows:

While the mainstream media and establishment Republicans believe that Christie’s political popularity crashed in New Jersey because of “bridge-gate,” conservatives across the country despise him primarily because of “hug-gate.” Now that Christie is running for president in 2016, many conservatives have already written him off.

Only one problem: that hug never happened. According to Christie, “There was no hug.” Breitbart effectively admits as much in the article I just quoted. Search “Obama Christie hug” on Google images and you’ll find a few friendly handshakes. And even though Megyn Kelly described the incident as a “bear-hug” in 2014,** fellow FOX television personality Greta van Susteren reviewed all available photographic evidence just this past August, concluded — as I did above — “There was no hug”, and issued an apology to Christie on the air. And you know that if FOX has to apologize, things are serious.

So where did the Christie-hugs-Obama meme start? If you somehow managed to cling to the thread I left dangling several paragraphs back, first of all — kudos, and second: the answer should be fairly obvious: the media. And in a somewhat ironic twist: liberal media.

The New York Times website currently hosts an article published in November of 2012, titled “After Obama, Christie Wants a G.O.P. Hug“. The headline certainly mentions Christie, Obama, and a hug, but nowhere establishes any grammatical relationship between these words that could imply that the first two performed the third amongst themselves. A close reading of the article itself similarly fails to turn up any allegation that any literal hug ever transpired.

So what does this unrelated article have to do with hug-gate at all? Why am I even bothering to bring it up in the first place? Well, a funny thing happens if you go digging for it using the Google:

christie's post hurricane embrace

It appears that the article originally ran under a headline much different — and considerably more misleading — than the one that sits atop it now. And in case you have any doubt these articles are one and the same, you are more than welcome to compare their respective urls, which are (naturally) identical:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/us/politics/after-embrace-of-obama-chris-christie-woos-a-wary-gop.html

Inspection actually reveals a third possible headline, this one also implying that Christie and Obama shared a post-Sandy embrace. And given that a 2014 study by the American Press Institute found 59% of Americans never read past the headlines, is it any wonder that Christie was quickly saddled with his Obama-loving reputation?

Remember, this is just a theory. But even if I’m wrong about the specific source, I think it’s fair to suggest that someone, somewhere more than likely used the word “embrace” metaphorically, and someone else, somewhere else took that term at face value.

And given his failure to successfully embrace Obama, Jones, AND Trump, I think it’s fair to say Mr. Christie does not have the best track record when it comes to hugging. Indeed, Chris would probably do well to stay away from anything that smells of physical contact for the remainder of his “bright future in public service“. Which is a shame, because — having dug into his history with the things — Christie seems like a guy who could really use a good hug.


*Made available for your viewing pleasure thanks to the efforts of a wonderful friend who shall remain nameless because her employer is unlikely to approve of this particular newspaper subscription.

**I suppose we can safely add personal dislike for Megyn Kelly to possible motivations for the Friday endorsement.

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