Republicans defend Christie on 'bridgegate' by invoking Benghazi, IRS scandals

Republicans defend Christie on 'bridgegate' by invoking Benghazi, IRS scandals

Prominent Republicans hit the Sunday morning talk show circuit to defend New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, comparing the possible 2016 presidential hopeful's handling of the burgeoning bridge scandal to President Barack Obama's response to the Benghazi attack and the IRS' targeting of conservative groups.

“Chris Christie has been totally open here,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. “He stood there for 111 minutes in an open dialogue with the press. Now, only if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would give us 111 seconds of that, would we find out some things we want to find out about Obamacare, Benghazi, the IRS.”

Priebus added: “I think what you saw the other day was leadership.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum agreed.

"Chris Christie went up, manned up, took it on and was decisive," Santorum said on NBC.

Last week during a nearly two-hour press conference, Christie apologized for his staffers' involvement in creating a 2013 traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge — an apparent retaliation against Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich, who had refused to endorse Christie for governor. Christie also announced the firing of two of his top aides.

“I think he took the bull by the horns, held people accountable, fired people," Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger said on ABC's “This Week With George Stephanopoulos." "And I think it is a very big difference than how this administration has handled things — IRS, Benghazi, you can keep your health insurance if you want it. Nobody’s been fired over that."

Christie has strongly denied his involvement in ordering the lane closures. State lawmakers have launched an investigation to determine if laws were broken.

“I think he did himself a lot of good,” Republican strategist Karl Rove said on "Fox News Sunday." “I think he did himself some good by contrasting with the normal, routine way of handing these things, which is to be evasive, to sort of trim on the edges.”

Rove continued: "I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some tea party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility.”

“You’ll notice we haven’t been hearing a lot from the Clinton camp about this,” he added. “Contrast both with Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi.”

Rove also criticized the media for its coverage of "bridgegate."

“The amount of attention paid this week to Chris Christie makes the coverage of Benghazi at the same time and the coverage of the IRS pale in significance," Rove said.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said it was understandable Christie was unaware of the September 2013 traffic jam because he was in the middle of a gubernatorial campaign.

"He was in campaign mode," Giuliani said on ABC's “This Week." "During campaign mode you miss a lot of things. You're not paying as much attention. We see that with Benghazi.

"The reality is you miss a lot of things when you're running a government that's as complicated as New Jersey, New York or the United States," Giuliani said.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, another possible GOP 2016 hopeful, refused to weigh in on Christie.

“We don't know all the facts," Rubio said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think this is a story that's still developing and we should reserve judgment. And beyond that, I don't know that much about it, other than what I've seen reported in the press. I really don't have much to add, other than that. And I wouldn't, you know, delve into the political speculation as well. That would be a mistake."