|Rocklin's on Cedar Lane in Teaneck. The convenience store first opened about 80 years ago, the current owner says. Take that 7-Eleven.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
What happened when members of the press pressed Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak for answers to pressing questions about the George Washington Bridge lane closures in Fort Lee?
The F-words flew, and they were aimed squarely at a newspaper reporter and editor.
Is that anyway for a former reporter for The Star-Ledger to act after spending many years shoving "the right to know" in the faces of reluctant or stonewalling news sources?
Of course not, but "former reporter" tells you little about Drewniak, Governor Christie's chief spin doctor, who appears to be as mean-spirited as his boss, known far and wide as the GOP bully.
Light on details
Today's Page 1 story in The Record is missing any information on how many years Drewniak spent as a reporter at the state's biggest newspaper, what he covered and how he covered it.
So, readers don't know whether he won his job as chief spokesman for Christie the crusading U.S. attorney because he could be trusted to tell former colleagues to go to hell when they got too close to the truth about his boss, as he appears to be doing in the four-month-old GWB scandal.
Or, whether the spokesman job was a "reward" to Drewniak for being the kind of journalist who could be molded by Christie to remain loyal and highly partisan above all else.
But we can assume Drewniak gave up newspaper journalism for a far higher salary -- that he basically sold out.
Don't expect any details in The Record, which doesn't like to discuss salaries -- whether for its own reporters, Christie's press secretary or special Bridgegate prosecutor Reid Schar (A-1).
Another former newspaper reporter, Carl Golden, is quoted today as saying it would be wrong to assume that Drewniak's appearance in Bridgegate e-mails "automatically indicates he did something wrong" (A-4).
The Record doesn't tell readers Golden is one of its former Trenton reporters or that in the past it ran his Sunday Opinion pieces on Christie without identifying him as onetime press secretary to two former Republican governors, Thomas H. Kean and Christie Whitman.
Really, how much value does anything written about Christie by a longtime GOP flack have, and why does The Record present Golden's pieces as insightful as opposed to just more conservative B.S.?
In fact, The Record's coverage of Christie -- in news stories, columns and editorials -- has been so kind readers can just imagine that reporters, columnists and editorial writers are competing for a much higher-paying job in a hoped-for Christie White House.
Christie's Port Authority cronies, Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, sent Drewniak questions from reporters about the controversy, which now appears to be political retribution against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor.
In one e-mail, Drewniak was asked to respond to a Star-Ledger reporter, but he "used an expletive" and called the reporter a "mutt," The Record reports on A-4 today.
He used the same expletive in response to a request for comment from a Star-Ledger editorial writer:
"[Expletive] him and the S-L [Star-Ledger]," Drewniak wrote.
Can we assume Drewniak called them "fucking mutts," and wrote "Fuck him and the S-L"?
The Record also quoted Brigid Harrison, a political science professor, as saying she "also was troubled by the disrespect shown to reporters, and its reflection on Christie" (A-4).
"That tone clearly damages his [Drewniak's] reputation. They're his constituents, the people he is charged with having a relationship with on the part of the governor. It's evident that he holds many of them in disdain."
We can only guess at whether Drewniak's own questionable performance as a reporter and his leaving the profession as a sell-out is haunting him now and shaping his opinion of all of those ink-stained wretches who pester him day in, day out.
For some reason, Harrison is not identified as one of The Record's Sunday Opinion columnists.
Why only now?
Why haven't we read more about Drewniak before today, especially in view of his long service to Christie in the U.S. Attorney's and Governor's offices?
On the front-page today, he is described as "rarely mincing words, often insulting or simply dismissing anyone who fails to adopt the administration's message."
I guess The Record's Melissa Hayes, Charles Stile, Alfred P. Doblin and others have nothing to worry about in view of their adoring coverage of Christie until the Bridgegate scandal broke last week.
Today's A-1 report doesn't say whether the $2 million settlement with two former Hackensack cops and two others will be covered by insurance or come out of the city treasury.
About a third of the $2 million is expected to go to the plaintiffs' lawyers.
Thomas Aiellos and Vincent Riotto are among two dozen cops who sued the city.
They detailed "shocking allegations of corruption and civil rights violations" under former state assemblyman and Police Chief Ken "I Am The Law" Zisa, who is appealing a 5-year prison term for criminal misconduct and insurance fraud (A-1).
Riotto will be reinstated as a lieutenant under terms of the settlement.
In Local today, Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza buried a story on a lawsuit alleging a gunman entered Westfield Garden State Plaza on Nov. 4 past "careless" security and opened fire before killing himself (L-6).
Swaddled in his own security blanket, the snoozing Sforza has refused to investigate whether the state's biggest mall has any effective security beyond cameras and unarmed guards directing traffic -- lest he alienate the retailers who are among the paper's biggest advertisers.
The suit by Alexandra DiMarco, 21, of Tappan, N.Y., alleges she "fell to the ground, broke her elbow and suffered cuts and bruises" during a stampede of shoppers (L-6).