Conservative figure Matt Rooney comes to Rider

By Olivia Nicoletti

Matt Rooney, the founder of New Jersey’s No. 1 source of conservative news via his website, started his introduction speech by cracking a joke at the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics event held on Sept. 27 on Rider’s campus.

Maria Castillo, a junior political science major, took the liberty of publicly welcoming Rooney to the event. Along with her statement that he is recognized as a “force in New Jersey state politics,” she added that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recognized Rooney for his “tireless efforts.”

As he took the stage, he debunked his and Christie’s current status. Rooney said, “and for the record, Chris Christie would not say that about me today. … It happens — you fall in love and you fall out of love.”

After the audience shared a laugh over his misfortunes, he continued to share that he was “absolutely tickled” to be invited to speak at the event.

Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute, said prior to the event’s beginning, “[Rooney] and I have been planning a talk like this for years, and my hope is that participants will find it as illuminating as I anticipate. We have something to learn from those we agree with, and sometimes even more from those with whom we don’t.”

Rooney then began his introduction by saying that he is a part of an “endangered species” in New Jersey, rather known as the conservative group.

His journey began at Rutgers Camden School of Law where he graduated in the class of 2010. He was later admitted to practice law in New Jersey in 2011 and then in the District of Columbia in 2012, according to Castillo.

He jumped on the opportunity of telling another joke by echoing this statement. “I am a conservative divorce lawyer, which makes me an even more niche creature for you to interact with this evening,” said Rooney.

Rooney focused his studies on family law matters, such as divorce, custody disputes and alimony.

Currently, Rooney serves as a Trustee for the Camden County Bar Association.

His claim to fame began with the website he founded for politics in New Jersey. Rooney said, this “was back in the era of Jon Corzine [a former New Jersey governor], so there was plenty to talk about.”

He said he did not start the website with intentions of popularity, but rather to share his opinions, make money and jokingly stated, “to pay off his student loans.”

He opened the Q&A portion of his speech by saying that any question was welcomed. Rooney said the audience can even ask his favorite color. He then followed up by making another joke — that he is a sagittarius, and likes long walks on the beach.

Graduate student Austin Ferguson asked, “How important do you think it is to differentiate between national republicans and New Jersey republicans when it comes to people who hesitate to vote for New Jersey republicans?”

Rooney answered this by relating religion to politics.

“When Jesus sent forth the Apostles, they have fundamentally the same message, but they were speaking different languages,” Rooney said.

This led into his explanation for his respect for Christie, even going as far as to relate him to Bill Clinton. Rooney commended his abilities to get a message across. He continued to say that many people said they would vote for Christie because “the guy tells you what he really thinks.”

In full, Rooney came to the conclusion that he respected communicators who personalized politics. He continued by stating, “the problem with a lot of people…especially a lot of leaders, is that they think the way you win elections is to be as unoffensive as possible.”

He followed that and said, “but that is a tactic that doesn’t work in any marketing context I’ve
ever seen… if people see you are making a genuine attempt to express yourself and you’re not just trying to pull talking points… they’ll respond to that.”

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