Was Chris Christie Really Appointed U.S. Attorney On September 10, 2001?

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The first GOP presidential debate went down on Thursday night, and it left no shortage of things to talk about. But when it comes to the hunger for one of those face-to-face showdown moments between two candidates, there was really only one exchange that stood out — Chris Christie and Rand Paul's testy back-and-forth about government surveillance, terrorism and the Bill of Rights. But as it turns out, Christie seems to have put his foot in his mouth — was Chris Christie really appointed U.S. Attorney on September 10th, 2001?

Given how fraught and contentious the business of political fact-checking can be, it's refreshing to have a simple question with a simple answer: no, Chris Christie was not appointed U.S. Attorney on September 10th, 2001, as he stated during Thursday's debate. In fact, according to The Asbury Park Press, Christie was only given word he'd been selected for the prestigious role that day, but he wasn't officialy nominated until December, and wasn't sworn in until January 17, 2002 — more than four months later than the date that he portentously stressed.

It's a rather bizarre claim for him to make, by virtue of just how easily disproven it is. To learn the real date that he began his career as a U.S. Attorney, you don't exactly have to do much digging, because it's on his Wikipedia page.

What makes this perhaps most bewildering is that Christie's actual record doesn't demand any embellishment. He does have an entirely authentic level of experience as a prosecutor dealing with terrorism cases in the post-911 era. Many on the political left would probably have some gripes with how he characterized the need for mass surveilance, framing it as a binary choice between civil rights and endangering American lives, but there's no doubt that Christie fulfilled the role he's now trying to promote himself on.

It's a pretty bad self-inflicted wound, frankly, and it'll surely make for a devastating attack ad should Christie ever become a serious enough contender to merit one. Here's what the exchange looked like, with Christie indulging in some world-class browbeating.

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Getting all worked up and doing the tough-guy act is one thing, sure, but when it's combined with a convenient fudging of the truth to make it all sound just a teensy bit more dramatic, people don't like it. It's a similar conceit to the one that derailed former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' career — concocting a perfect story, when the pretty good truth would've done just fine. It's not the first time this has happened either, as ThinkProgress details — he's also invoked his pre-9/11 appointment in an 2011 radio interview, and in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition earlier this year. 

For its part, the Christie campaign responded on Friday, with spokeperson Samantha Smith stating that Christie is "not a liar," according to U.S. News and World Report.

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