Olympian Carl Lewis stands by claims that Christie tried to intimidate him
January 21st, 2014
09:52 AM ET
7 months ago

Olympian Carl Lewis stands by claims that Christie tried to intimidate him

Updated 10:54 a.m. ET, 1/21/2014

(CNN) - Add former Olympic star Carl Lewis to the list of names who say they felt pressured by Gov. Chris Christie's administration in New Jersey.

Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medal winner in track and field, says the Governor tried to dissuade him from running for a state Senate seat as a Democrat in 2011, according to a report from The Newark Star-Ledger.

Lewis, who grew up in New Jersey, began talking with Christie's administration and the Republican Governor himself in 2010 about becoming the state's "physical fitness ambassador," a volunteer position.

But when Lewis started considering a state Senate bid the following year, Lewis said he heard from Christie.

"When he talked to me on the phone that night, he said 'If you run, we're going to have to cancel the program'," Lewis told the Star-Ledger.

He made those allegations public in April 2011, but he says recent claims made against the Christie administration shed new light on his own case.

At the time, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, who still works for the Governor, denied Christie tried to pressure Lewis against running, according to the Star-Ledger.

"Absolutely, positively not. And anybody who says otherwise is lying," Drewniak said.

Lewis went on to pursue his campaign in 2011 but faced legal hurdles involving residency requirements. In his on-again-off-again race, Lewis was ultimately ruled ineligible by Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State Kim Guadagno as well as a federal appeals court.

In a statement Tuesday, Drewniak praised Lewis as "a genuinely impressive human being and Olympic athlete."

"We have nothing but good things to say about his contributions," he continued. "Unfortunately, this coming now is obviously a sour-grapes rehash of a clear-cut legal issue which did not fall his way."

The former Olympic athlete told the Star-Ledger that the challenges made by the administration were "fair," given that he had voted in California elections in 2008 and 2009, which didn't meet the four-year residency requirement for New Jersey law.

Lewis did not weigh in on the recent controversy in which top Christie aides are accused of orchestrating a major traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, out of political retribution against the city's Democratic mayor.

But Lewis told the Star-Ledger that people are more likely to believe his story now that others are making allegations of intimidation by the Christie administration.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Related:

Hoboken mayor: 'It's true' Christie administration withheld Sandy funds

New Jersey Lt. Gov.: Hoboken allegations are 'offensive to me'

Christie: 'I haven't enjoyed the last 11 days'

Giuliani: Bridgegate a 'witch hunt'

Former prosecutor points to another case against Christie administration

Christie tries to move past bridge scandal


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    Oh brother... another has-been looking for an additional 15 minutes.

    January 21, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  2. S.B. Stein

    It would not be surprising that this would be done. If the state Senate seat would challenge a Republican, it makes (twisted) sense to me. I think that this was also challenged in court as if he could run as well. There was some residency requirement that the Lt. gov challeged Carl Lewis on at the time. Could that be verified?

    January 21, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. carlos

    Was inclined to consider Christie ......... now some doubts.

    January 21, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. Peace

    Oh! boy, this drip, drip, drip seems has no end. How many times Christie will apologise? So long as he started it, he will continue to say sorry until there is no more allegations. Until when? No one knows.

    January 21, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    Too bad that "has been" has done more in his lifetime then people hiding behind a computer talking ish constantly.

    Christy is a bully and it's time everyone knew.

    January 21, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  6. Get used to IT tea potty! 3 more yrs to spew ur hate @Obama

    In the end, this much is clear: If Lewis remains on the ballot, any plans for him to be the state’s youth fitness ambassador are on ice. “I don’t think Mr. Lewis is going to be running for office and doing this,” – threatened Chris Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak

    Pay for play scheme is being orchestrated by this blowhard Chris Christie in NJ. Intimidation. Thuggery. Threats. Family ads at Taxpayers expense. Get him in jail already!!!!

    January 21, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Lewis went on to pursue his campaign anyway but faced legal hurdles involving residency requirements. In his on-again-off-again race, Lewis was ultimately ruled ineligible by Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State Kim Guadagno as well as a federal appeals court.
    --------------------------–
    There are tangled webs of intrigue surrounding a closed circle of people, which finds Christe at the homothetic center.

    January 21, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. Nikki

    The only problem with the "has been looking for his 15" theory is that Mr. Lewis made these allegations a full two years before all of this has come to light. That being said, and this coming from a staunch Democrat, I don't understand if what the Mayor of Hoboken is alleging is true then why is she just now bringing it up? If her city, the businesses, and most importantly, her constituents were being harmed/slighted in such an egregious way why didn't she shout this from the rooftops when it happened? What is her responsibility in all of this if that did happen?

    January 21, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. O'drama ya Mama

    Fair is Fair

    Oh brother... another has-been looking for an additional 15 minutes.
    January 21, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    He's an Olympian, hes had way more then his 15 minutes. I believe he is just interested in sharing the truth.

    January 21, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    "He made those allegations public in April 2011, but he says recent claims made against the Christie administration shed new light on his own case. "

    "He's an Olympian, hes had way more then his 15 minutes. I believe he is just interested in sharing the truth."
    ----------------------------------
    Exactly. I have no doubt that Mr. Lewis looked at the names that keep resurfacing in each emerging scandal and said to himself, "Hey, wait a second." Fair does not make the same criticism of "never has been, and never will" Sarah Palin.

    January 21, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    'If you run, we're going to have to cancel the program',"
    --------------------------------------
    Sounds similar to the ultimatum Guadagno gave to Mayor Zimmer. This is the culture Christie has created in New Jersey.

    January 21, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Peace

    @Nikki
    Are you aware that the water never finds its way out until there is even a small path to go through? Please understand that there was no way the Mayor had an opportunity even to whisper of what happened. Now she has got a chance which she never dreamed of. Why can't she use it? Is it forbidden?

    January 21, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Marie MD

    Now that the dragon has been wounded people will come out. While it was in the cave surrounded by his cronies there was nothing to be done by anyone because do it's power.
    @fair, Olympics comes to mind. What have you done lately or ever?

    January 21, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  14. Winning

    "Fair is Fair
    Oh brother... another has-been looking for an additional 15 minutes."

    Let's see here, an 9 time Olympic medalist, and an angry troll who rages ceaselessly about "liberals" from his mother's basement. Lewis has accomplished more than you ever will, sir.

    January 21, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  15. HoustonOilMan

    @Fair is Fair
    Anyone who has won 9 Olympic gold medals will never be a has been.

    January 21, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  16. Ol' Yeller

    "Absolutely, positively not. And anybody who says otherwise is lying," Drewniak said.

    Anyone else see the pattern here?
    Have I ever told ya'll my theory on the two political stratergies used by the republicants (Hint: both are evident in these growing christie scandals).

    Projection: I'm a liar and an unethical crook, so therefore they must be.
    Playing the victim: Those people are lying on me.

    January 21, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. Malory Archer

    Nikki

    .... I don't understand if what the Mayor of Hoboken is alleging is true then why is she just now bringing it up? If her city, the businesses, and most importantly, her constituents were being harmed/slighted in such an egregious way why didn't she shout this from the rooftops when it happened?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Fear of retribution, most likely. Christie's inner circle's political shakedown of other elected officials in order to get their way is nothing compared the treatment of those who refused to play ball. Nobody's got anything to lose by coming forth now, so the flood gates are open.

    January 21, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Ol' Yeller wrote:

    Anyone else see the pattern here?
    Have I ever told ya'll my theory on the two political stratergies used by the republicants (Hint: both are evident in these growing christie scandals).

    Projection: I'm a liar and an unethical crook, so therefore they must be.
    Playing the victim: Those people are lying on me.
    ------------------–
    Even Lt. Gov. Guadagno played the victim card during her short presser. She stated that she was a Sandy victim herself and that Zimmer's allegations are insult to Sandy victims throughout New Jersey.

    Most of the Sandy funds have gone directly to the Jersey shore. All of the media attention has been on shoreline communities. There are nterior areas of NJ that are riddled with flood prone rivers and streams. Very little funds have gone towards those regions that seem to sufferstreet flooding every other thunder storm.

    January 21, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Nikki

    .... I don't understand if what the Mayor of Hoboken is alleging is true then why is she just now bringing it up? If her city, the businesses, and most importantly, her constituents were being harmed/slighted in such an egregious way why didn't she shout this from the rooftops when it happened?
    ---------------------------–
    Survival. She was running for re-election, riding on Christie's coat tails. Demonizing him, after having publicly supported him both before and after the alleged parking lot incident, would most likely severely damaged her chances for re-election.

    Let's face it, this boils down to a "he said/she said" argument. Making the accuations before money is distributed would have cast her allegations into a weak light. She gave them some rope and time to follow through on the alleged threat, which has apparently been the case.

    January 21, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. Gunderson

    Aw Gee Man,
    Conspiracy, Conspiracy, Conspiracy! breakout Black Helicopters! Pretty soon we will have Christi for nailing Christ to the Cross! Bingo gotcha! My some of you are so easy!

    January 21, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  21. Thomas

    Humor is the hallmark of intelligence. Lack of humor is the hallmark of a neo-conservative.

    I find this post , so true !

    Chris Christie / Ted Cruz 2016
    Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

    January 21, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. John

    Funny thing: Lewis is a resident of Houston, Texas. The issue wasn't him running; it was not being a resident.
    Why is this news?????? Besides, the bridge shutdown itself was caused by an anti-islam video.

    January 21, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Meh...not as big as the other two accusations. At this point, if any of the accusations about the bridge or Hoboken end up true, I see now way for Christie to avoid finding himself under the bus. If you fill your administration and political network with self-interested people in order to know they will be willing to do these kinds of things, you shouldn't be surprised when one of them acts in their own self-interest and trades your head for immunity to save themselves.

    January 21, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Nikki

    .... I don't understand if what the Mayor of Hoboken is alleging is true then why is she just now bringing it up? If her city, the businesses, and most importantly, her constituents were being harmed/slighted in such an egregious way why didn't she shout this from the rooftops when it happened?

    I think you answered your own question...
    If the retribution she received for such a simple thing as not toeing the line was to allow her and her city to suffer, what would she have believed would have been the consequences for what they would see as her betrayal?
    The pattern here is that many in the political arena in Joisey knew how the game was played and who the big dog is/was. Just the little peek we are getting here (so far) shows a vindictive and iron fisted rule by a petulant administration who obviously let their power go to their heads.
    Look what christie did for his friends.... then look what he did the minute they were stupid enough to get caught doing what he obviously condoned (or the secondary theory- that he was such an inept and out of touch leader that he was not even aware of the most fundamental aspects of the job he was elected to do).

    January 21, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. rla

    CNN has reached the bottom as a puppet of the white house! Obama should be in jail for his actions and a bully??? Well just look at what he did to get obama care passed

    January 21, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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