Chris Christie has promised to take the fight to Donald Trump when he launches a long-shot Republican presidential campaign next week, but he seems likely to have to do so without help from one key voice at Fox News.
The former New Jersey governor just wants to “bludgeon” Trump, the prime-time host and close Trump ally Sean Hannity said on Friday, adding that he did not want to give Christie any airtime.
“I have no problem giving airtime to any of the candidates who want to come on and give their point of view,” Hannity said.
“But I’m looking at Chris Christie, he left office as governor of New Jersey, 13% approval rating, 14% in another poll, and I’m looking at this and I’m saying, ‘OK, you’re only getting in this race ’cause you hate Donald Trump and want to bludgeon Donald Trump.’
“I don’t see Chris Christie actually wanting to run and win the nomination. He views it as his role to be the enforcer and to attack Trump.
“That’s not a very inspiring agenda, and I don’t even know if I’m interested in facilitating or listening to him babble on when he left office with nobody in New Jersey even liking him.”
Hannity facilitated a friendly hearing for Trump this week, hosting a recorded Iowa town hall.
As broadcast, the event did not reference Trump’s $5m penalty for sexual abuse and defamation of the writer E Jean Carroll or his lies about electoral fraud, the broadcast of which cost Fox $787.5m in a suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems and which remains at issue in a suit from Smartmatic, another election machines company.
Christie took office in New Jersey in 2009 but suffered in Republican eyes first when he was seen to be too close to Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy, then when he became ensnared in the “Bridgegate” scandal over political payback.
On leaving office in 2015, Christie’s approval ratings were at historic lows. He ran for president in 2016 but only made an impact with a debate-stage destruction of the Florida senator Marco Rubio.
Quick to endorse Trump, Christie stayed loyal even after he was fired from planning the White House transition which Christie has said was over bad blood with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law whose father Christie helped jail.
Christie became an ABC analyst and wrote two books, a memoir and a prescription for how Republicans could win back power. He broke from Trump after the deadly January 6 Capitol attack, which Trump incited in service of his lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
In his second book, Republican Rescue, Christie said his party needed to “renounce the conspiracy theories and truth deniers, the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts”.
Republicans have not done so. Trump dominates polling despite unprecedented legal jeopardy including criminal charges in New York, over a hush-money payment, and potential indictments in state and federal investigations of his election subversion.
Though Christie has denied he is a “paid assassin”, aiming to take Trump down, he has made plain that he hopes to put his pugilistic political skills to good use.
Trump, Christie told Politico, “can’t be a credible figure on the world stage; he can’t be a credible figure interacting with Congress; he will get nothing done”.
Trump’s vulnerabilities, Christie said, needed to be “called out … by somebody who knows him. Nobody knows Donald Trump better than I do.”
An unnamed former Republican candidate said: “No one else has the balls to do it.”