Cable Nets Tread Back Into Political Coverage in the Wake of Sandy

Chris Christie CNN Hurricane Sandy Coverage - H 2012

Chris Christie CNN Hurricane Sandy Coverage - H 2012

MSNBC and CNN devoted significant time to Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Mitt Romney’s opposing views on FEMA.

Perhaps spurred by an op-ed in The New York Times, cable networks on Tuesday began expanding beyond their Sandy coverage to dip a toe back in the political pool.

Specifically, CNN and MSNBC dedicated significant coverage to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which appear to be in direct contrast to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan to disband the organization in favor of giving states the responsibility to deal with their own emergencies.

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Asked whether FEMA should be shut down during a recent presidential debate, Romney replied: “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

Now Gov. Christie, who has been an ardent supporter of Romney throughout his campaign, is seeking immediate assistance from FEMA in offsetting the crippling damage in New Jersey caused by hurricane Sandy on Monday.

“Nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin,” Christie said, referring to the tornado-stricken Missouri town, “and I don’t want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of.”

Responding to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s statement about not being interested in FEMA’s help unless offsets can be found, Christie had more to say.

“You want to figure out budget cuts, that’s fine,” Christie added. “You’re going to turn it into a fiasco like that debt-limit thing where you’re fighting with each other for eight or nine weeks and you expect the citizens of my state to wait? They’re not gonna wait, and I’m going to fight to make sure that they don’t.”

To prove that the issue at hand is nonpartisan, Christie also introduced New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg to drive the point home.

“We are gonna fight like hell against those who want to cut back on FEMA’s funding,” Lautenberg said. “We cannot do this without lots of money.”

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In response to the devastation currently plaguing the East Coast, Romney issued the following statement, which backtracks slightly on his previous stance. “Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” said Romney rep Ryan Williams. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”

The NYT op-ed first surfaced online Monday evening with the headline "A Big Storm Requires Big Government." In it, the author calls Romney's stance on eliminating FEMA "absurd" and says, "ideology still blinds Republicans to [FEMA's] value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast."

Meanwhile, on the conservative-leaning Fox News, the Benghazi attacks in Eastern Lybia were discussed and footage of Romney’s latest campaign stop was shown. The network did offer frequent updates on the storm damage via a ticker at the bottom of the screen, and also discussed how the storm would affect Romney’s campaign. Fox News also addressed President Obama’s forthcoming trip to New Jersey.