Was Chris Christie’s Curse Filled Speech Fair Game?

Chris Christie's profanity-laden speech to the press corps made national news last week.

Chris Christie
Chris Christie.(Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images) (Photo: Kena Betancur for Getty Images)

New Jersey governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie made headlines last week for a profanity laden speech that was recorded and then publicized. The curse-heavy speech occurred during the annual New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club Show, which is for the Garden State’s press corps what the White House Correspondent’s dinner is for the national media.

That Mr. Christie’s idea of good-natured ribbing included telling the reporters tasked with covering him that he doesn’t “give a shit about them” and dropping multiple F-bombs may not play as well outside of Jersey. But it’s so hard to keep things inside of Jersey these days.

Bruno Tedeschi, a Jersey political reporter turned public relations strategist, recorded the speech and wrote about it in an email newsletter blast that he sent out the morning following the speech.

“In what will forever be remembered as his ‘I don’t give a shit,’ speech, Gov. Chris Christie delivered a Bulworth-inspired, expletive-filled tirade against the media during the New Jersey Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show that would have made many Iowa-based religious conservatives pray for his soul,” Mr. Tedeschi wrote. The story was soon picked up by outlets like Bloomberg Politics and IBTimes. Event organizers claimed that it was off the record, although others contend that it officially stopped being off the record in 1994.

Tom Moran, the editorial page editor of The Star-Ledger, bemoaned the fact that the event became a story.

“This is one night a year when we all put down our weapons and share a drink and a few laughs,” wrote Mr. Moran, who, it should be noted, was called an “angry drunk” in the governor’s speech. “It strikes me as healthy for pols and journalists to be reminded once a year that the other guy is a human being, that banging heads on the job doesn’t have to make us personal enemies.”

But at a time when everyone is carrying a recording device on them at all times, is it a realistic to expect that something be kept off the record?

Mr. Tedeschi argues that it isn’t.

“In this day and age, a politician would have to be completely self destructive to make any comments in a public setting that they wouldn’t be comfortable with appearing on YouTube or Facebook or Twitter,” he told the Observer. “If a politician feels the need to make off color jokes to reporters, they should rent out a small back room in a bar and make everyone check their smart phones at the door. Then they can amuse themselves with shit and fuck jokes all night long.”

Amusement is so hard to come by these days. But you gotta hand it to a state where the top journalists defend a politician’s right to belittle the press corps without having to read stories about it in the national media the next morning. Was Chris Christie’s Curse Filled Speech Fair Game?