The Conversation

Rachel Maddow's Alternative Bridgegate Theory

Rachel Maddow hasn't let embarrassment regarding a bogus story about the Koch brothers dissuade her from taking more risks on her show. Thursday she devoted a segment to presenting an alternative theory for the closing of lanes on the George Washington bridge. Her theory is getting plenty of attention but, like the Koch story, has no evidence to back it up.

The story we've all heard for the traffic closure in Fort Lee, New Jersey is that some high ranking aides to Christie wanted to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse Christie in his recent reelection. But according to Maddow that's not the real reason.

The real reason involves an ongoing controversy involving the State Supreme Court. Back in 2010, Christie refused to reappoint Justice John Wallace to the court. Democrats were outraged and responded by blocking four out of five subsequent Christie's appointments to the court.

In 2012, Christie announced he would in effect replace Justice Helen Hoens with Judge Faustino Ferandez-Vina. Christie praised both Hoens and Vina but said he wanted to avoid another battle with members of the state senate. "I was not going to let her loose to the animals" Christie said. In particular, Christie blamed State Senator Raymond Lesniak for floating the idea of blocking Hoens as payback for Christie's 2010 decision on Justice Wallace.

Here's where Maddow's new theory kicks in. The decision to appoint Judge Vina instead of reappointing Justice Hoens took place on August 12th. The email about creating a traffic jam in Fort Lee was dated August 13th. Maddow believes the traffic vendetta was really payback aimed at Senate Democratic leader Loretta Weinberg who represents district 37 which includes Fort Lee.

Business Insider points to a major problem with Maddow's theory. None of the documents mention Senator Weinberg. They do however mention Mayor Sokolich. In fact, they mention Sokolich in unflattering terms, noting that his calls about the lane closures were being ignored.

In addition, as mentioned above, Christie had already identified the person he thought was responsible for the problem reappointing Justice Hoens and it was not Senator Weinberg. Christie blamed Sen. Lesniak who represents district 20 which is located half-an-hour south of Fort Lee.

I contacted Senator Weinberg's office for comment on the theory but they did not respond in time to be included in this story. However, Senate President Stephen Sweeney was not impressed. He told TPM "Whoever said that has a very creative imagination." Sweeney also described it as "a real conspiracy thing."

The full clip of Maddow offering her new theory is available on MSNBC here. This marks twice so far this year that Maddow has made an unsubstantiated claim about a political opponent. She has refused to apologize for the first one.


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