New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared in front of reporters this morning in an attempt to distance himself from the e-mails, released yesterday, showing members of his staff orchestrating a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge to punish a local mayor. As soft-spoken and contrite as he can possibly sound, Christie began by saying sorry. “I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to members of the state legislature,” said Christie, who added that he was “blindsided” by the revelations that his top aides were directly involved.
“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue — in its planning or its execution — and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here,” he said, insisting that he was “disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was contained in the e-mails,” “embarrassed and humiliated by some of the people on my team,” and now engaged in some “soul searching.”
Christie attempted to at once play the victim and the leader, claiming that he was deceived by his staff about their role in the lane closures and has taken action. “There is no justification for that behavior. There’s no justification for ever lying to a governor or a person of authority in this government,” he said.
As a result, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly was fired, effective immediately. “Because she lied to me,” said Christie. “I’ve engendered the sense and feeling among the people closest to me that we’re a family. We tell each other the truth. I am heartbroken that someone who I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust.”
“I take this action today because it’s my job,” he continued. “I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short of the expectations that we have created.” As a result, New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney has also opened an inquiry into the incident. David Wildstein, Christie’s old pal and Port Authority appointee who has already resigned in the matter, has been ordered to testify before the State Assembly.
On the issue of the so-called “traffic study,” the Christie administration’s original cover for the bridge traffic, the governor said he remains unsure if such a study ever existed (it does not appear to). It could have been “a traffic study that morphed into a political vendetta,” Christie suggested. “This gets into the nuance of what a traffic study is.” He added, “I probably wouldn’t know a traffic study if I tripped over it.”
“Ultimately, I am responsible for what happens under my watch — the good and the bad,” said Christie. But, he stressed, “I am not a bully.”