New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was roundly roasted at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday. But the governor’s response seemed almost lifted from a PR professional’s playbook.
Christie laughed along as headliner Joel McHale relentlessly pounded him.
“I promise that tonight will be both amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid,” the comedian quipped.
“Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? ‘Cause I’ve got a bunch of both. I could go half and half. I know you like a combo platter,” McHale said, an obvious crack at Christie’s much-discussed weight problem.
Riffing on the internal bridge-scandal investigation that absolved the governor of all blame, McHale continued: “I am sorry for that joke, Governor Christie. I did not know I was going to tell it, but I take full responsibility for it. Whoever wrote it will be fired. But the buck stops here. So, I am appointing a blue-ribbon commission of me to investigate the joke I just told. And if I find any wrongdoing on my part, I assure you I will be dealt with.”
“I just looked into it. It turns out I am not responsible for it. Justice has been served,” McHale teased, adding, “He is going to kill me.”
But Christie, 51, didn’t kill him. As critics, who found the fat jokes singularly inappropriate, sounded off on Twitter, Christie just chuckled.
He even took a photo with his roaster at an after-party:
In an interview with Vanity Fair, the governor actually complimented McHale’s comedic timing, then deftly redirected the conversation to his celebrity friends (because a little name-dropping never hurt anyone):
“Listen, I thought he was great, and that’s exactly what I expected,” Christie told Vanity Fair, then went on to discuss his conversation with Modern Family star Sofia Vergara.
Roaster McHale admitted that the governor had been “very cool” about the whole thing.
“I have to give Gov. Christie a huge amount of credit, because I went after him harder than anybody. He could have tried to tackle me, but he was cool about it,” McHale told Variety.
Like Christie, roasted presidents, Obama included, rarely show frustration, although former White House aides have admitted that the commanders-in-chief suffer in silence. But other guests have not taken the jokes so well.
Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump lashed out when headliner Seth Meyers made fun of his presidential aspirations at the 2011 Correspondents’ Dinner.
“Seth Meyers has no talent,” he angrily told The New York Times. “It was like a roast of Donald Trump. He fell totally flat.”
In contrast, political consultants have called Christie’s response “masterful.”
“If he would have been offended by it, and acted like a petulant child, everyone would have said, ‘What’s wrong with him?’” Republican advertising consultant Jim Innocenzi told ABC News. “That’s the smartest move he could make. You have to roll with it.”
Mike Paul, a crisis PR and reputation management specialist, said, ”We’re all human, and we get pissed off. So for him to be able to laugh about [the bridge scandal], especially in the midst of it, takes a very balanced self-esteem.”
Added Republican strategist Mark Campbell: ”I think most people would agree that politics is a bit of a rough-and-tumble occupation. People think, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the game.’”