New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke at Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition conference the other day, no doubt trying to curry favor with the religious right movement in advance of a national campaign. The speech wasn’t especially remarkable – the governor went on at length about his battles with the legislature – but there was one portion that stood out for me.
Christie sidestepped fiery rhetoric on abortion, but made clear that he had always been willing to “speak very frankly to people about the sanctity of life,” despite being an anti-abortion politician in a liberal state. He mocked Democrats for claiming the GOP was “intolerant” on social issues, accusing the other side of blocking pro-life speakers from its national conventions while Republicans showcased pro-choice leaders like Condoleezza Rice.
Looking at the transcript, the governor seemed quite excited about this line of attack: “I can’t say how many times I’ve had people in the media say to me, ‘Governor, how is it that a Republican Party can be a national party that wins again when, their words, you’re so intolerant on certain social issues?’
“And this is the answer I give them, and the way I lead: You know, we have different definitions of intolerance. You see, remember this. Names like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Tom Ridge – all Republicans who are pro-choice Republicans and have spoken at Republican National Conventions. I said to a number of different reporters who’ve asked me this: Name me the one pro-life Democrat who’s ever been able and allowed to speak at a Democratic National Convention since Roe vs. Wade? Don’t strain yourself, because there’s never been one. Theirs is the party that is intolerant.”
If this rhetoric seems vaguely familiar, it’s because Christie has pushed this line before. In March, the governor appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where he made the same argument, almost word for word.
The problem, in this case, is that Christie’s line of attack is demonstrably wrong – which he was told in March, but which hasn’t stopped him from repeating a claim that isn’t true.
Amanda Terkel explained after the governor’s speech on Friday that Christie’s argument is “completely false.”
Democratic conventions have consistently had anti-abortion speakers. From a 2005 Media Matters article: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL), and five other governors who opposed abortion rights did address the convention in 1992, as detailed in a September 16, 1996, article in The New Republic on the Casey myth. In addition, anti-abortion speakers have spoken at every Democratic convention since 1992, including Breaux in 1996 and 2000, former House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI) in 1996 and 2000, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2000 and 2004.As FactCheck.org noted after Christie’s CPAC remarks, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) – whom The New York Times has called “the country’s most prominent ‘pro-life’ Democrat” – delivered a prime-time address at the Democratic convention in 2008.
In 2012, Democrats even invited a nun, Sister Simone Campbell, who opposes abortion rights, to also speak at the party’s convention, where she received a standing ovation.
In March, when Christie first made this claim, it was an unfortunate error. The governor and his speechwriters should have done some cursory research – the truth is readily available after just a few seconds on Google – but they chose not to and ended up getting caught pushing a falsehood.
But everyone makes sloppy mistakes sometimes, and Christie has had three months to get his facts straight. Except, he doesn’t want to – the governor likes the claim so much, he’s decided it’s too good to check. Christie is apparently so invested in the idea that Republicans are superior to Democrats when it comes to diversity of thought – a claim so laughable that it’s literally impossible to believe – that he intends to keep repeating bogus stories, reality be damned.