February 26th, 2014
11:12 AM ET
5 months ago

Christie: 'I'll be damned' if traffic uproar gets in the way of 'real job'

Updated 9:09 p.m. ET, 2/26/2014

Long Hill, New Jersey (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he will "not give into the hysteria" surrounding specific questions about a political scandal roiling his administration and will not let the uproar distract him from his "real job."

In his most extensive comments in weeks about the issue, Christie bristled at questions about his handling of the matter last year regarding staff members and other allies caught up in the controversy now under investigation by a state legislative committee and the U.S. Attorney.

He also noted New Jerseyans that he's met at recent town hall events, including one on Wednesday in Long Hill, don't appear interested in it.

"I will be damned if I let any of this stuff get in the way of my real job," he said on his latest appearance on the "Ask the Governor" program hosted by New Jersey 101.5.

The Republican's administration is facing scrutiny over suggestions top appointees orchestrated traffic gridlock in Fort Lee last September in an act of political retribution against that town's mayor.

Christie has denied any knowledge of the traffic mess at the foot of the George Washington Bridge until after it ended and only after it appeared in media reports.

He also denies knowing of any political mischief involving staffers or appointees at the agency that oversees bridge operations, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The scandal, which has resulted in subpoenas to top current and former officials, has called into question Christie's forceful governing style that has resonated with voters and has clouded prospects for any presidential bid.

Christie, who appeared frustrated with the line of questioning on the scandal, defended his handling of the matter as it simmered in New Jersey last fall, during his reelection campaign.

Asked about Kelly

He was asked whether he should have in the earlier going probed the issue more deeply with staff in Trenton and with top appointees at the Port Authority, who explained that a traffic study was behind the gridlock.

One person at the center of the scandal in particular is Bridget Kelly, a former deputy in Trenton, who was fired after the release of a potentially damaging series of emails with a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority.

"I'm not gonna give into the hysteria of questions that are given by folks who have information today that I didn't have at the time you're talking about," he said. "I didn't ask the questions because I didn't think they needed to be asked."

Christie said Kelly was questioned by her superiors and would not speculate about it, noting that he and others cannot compel people to say anything.

"If someone's not gonna tell you the truth they don't tell you the truth. What are you gonna do? Grab them by the ankles and shake them upside down till emails fall out of their pockets. I mean come on. Lets not be hysterical about that," he said.

Cracking wise

Earlier, Christie cracked wise about polls on the same day a new survey showed troubling signs for his possible White House prospects.

He kicked off the Long Hill event with a joke that appeared to be in context of national poll numbers that have dropped since the scandal began making national headlines in January.

"The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you are always wrong affect my life everyday – pollsters and weathermen," Christie said to laughter from the audience in snowy Morris County.

It's a political setting he favors and the area is friendly territory for the Republican, who began his political career two decades ago as a county freeholder.

"I mean, they don't ever have to have it right and then they come back the next day and they sound just as authoritative as they used to right? It's crazy," he continued. "But hopefully – we are getting to the end of February this week and hopefully that will mean we will stop this insane winter we've had."

A lot colder

The Garden State has seen its share of cold and snow this season, and Christie's national prospects have also cooled in polls.

A new CBS/New York Times poll Wednesday indicated 41% of Republicans said they didn't want Christie to run for President, compared to 31% who said they'd like to see the governor make a White House bid.

In a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Monday, only 49% of the state's registered voters approve of the job he's doing now, down from 58% in January and from 70% a year ago.

And a CNN/ORC International survey earlier this month indicated that Christie trailed Hillary Clinton by 16 percentage points in a hypothetical 2016 matchup. It represented a dramatic switch from December, when Christie held a 48%-46% edge. Clinton has not said whether she's running either.

'Looking sad'

Attendees waiting in line before the town hall had predicted the event would mostly focus on the governor's budget plan, with some bringing up concerns about education and pension plans.

One woman said she hoped to see "the old Christie back," adding that he's been looking "sad" these days.

Others brushed off the recent bridge controversy, saying it doesn't seem to be an issue that locals are too concerned about.

The governor, who was re-elected by a landslide last year to a second term, said he's "not worried about politics anymore" in New Jersey.

"I'm on the back nine, you're only obligation is to tell people the truth," he said. "My name's not going to be on the ballot again in this state, so we need to make sure we do this the right way."

For the second week, Christie didn't get any questions at town halls about the scandal du jour. But this time, one participant did ask him about red lights and traffic jams at lights near the Holland Tunnel, which crosses under the Hudson River toward Lower Manhattan.

"I am not, as I stand here today, an expert on light timing," Christie responded, saying he'll have his transportation aides get in touch with the man.

The Holland Tunnel is operated by the same agency that runs the George Washington Bridge and is caught up in the scandal - the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"I was like at the end of my ability to say anything intelligent about traffic lights so I didn't want it to go down to the deck here," he joked.

'Be a leader'

One of his toughest questions came from a 10-year-old girl named Abigail, a fifth-grader who raised a lengthy concern about the state's decision to switch to a system that requires students to take the tests on computers, rather than pen and paper.

Reading from a piece of paper, she said she found in her own science fair experiment that students retain more information when they engage with paper and pen, rather than computer screens or iPads.

The she offered a challenge to the governor.

"Don't be a follower, be a leader," she said.

Christie took heat from a few in the audience who loudly questioned him on his veto of an anti-fracking waste ban, but Christie waved them off and largely ignored them. The audience then drowned them out with boo's.

Christie, known for his combative style and personal political touch, likes being face-to-face with voters and he's sticking to that practice as his administration reels from the political scandal.

A Christie staff member told CNN that he'll be doing more of the events in coming weeks and months to stress the "things he hopes to accomplish" as well as address recovery efforts from 2012's Superstorm Sandy that devastated parts of the state, especially shore areas.

He'll hold another town hall as early as Tuesday. It will be his 112th event since taking office in 2009.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ tom l
    Can we agree tom to not use our responses to each other to take potshots, or make snide comments about others on this board?
    Terms such as "the gang" and "the usual suspects" are ok but if you want to call somebody out then address your post to them.
    Fair enough?
    There is an overabundance of hate and snarkiness on this site, let's try to resist the urge to merge

    February 26, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Gov. Chris Christie is so funny , he should tell jokes next time people are stuck in traffic on the GWB.

    February 26, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    We like our Governor and will keep our Governor
    -------------------------------------------------
    That works out nicely seeing how nobody else wants him...for anything.

    February 26, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. tom l

    @DMFO,
    Fair enough but I couldn't resist. :)

    February 26, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    Just – Are you saying they no longer have the thousands of emails in regard to the bridge shut down? Wow, how did that happen? As for Sandy relief and his pet projects, you might be a little surprised. Finally, thanks for confirming that your "hands on guy" is clueless.

    February 26, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Fair is Fair

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ tom l
    Can we agree tom to not use our responses to each other to take potshots, or make snide comments about others on this board?
    Terms such as "the gang" and "the usual suspects" are ok but if you want to call somebody out then address your post to them.
    Fair enough?
    There is an overabundance of hate and snarkiness on this site, let's try to resist the urge to merge
    -------–
    I'm going to hold you to that... I've been referenced both directly and indirectly in a LOT of your posts.

    February 26, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Fair is Fair
    I'm going to hold you to that... I've been referenced both directly and indirectly in a LOT of your posts.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I like to deliver my potshots and snide comments DIRECTLY Fair. I won't couch them in a post to someone else.
    What's the purpose of that?
    If you've read that many of my posts you would know that.
    There is a difference, however, Fair, in referencing someone in a post in order to make your point.
    Insofar as indirectly, can't promise you anything there as you will always be a part of the "usual suspects".

    February 26, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    tom l

    @DMFO,
    Fair enough but I couldn't resist.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I hear you tom l :)!
    Thanks!

    February 26, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Fair is Fair
    I'm going to hold you to that... I've been referenced both directly and indirectly in a LOT of your posts.
    -----------------
    I like to deliver my potshots and snide comments DIRECTLY Fair. I won't couch them in a post to someone else.
    What's the purpose of that?
    If you've read that many of my posts you would know that.
    There is a difference, however, Fair, in referencing someone in a post in order to make your point.
    Insofar as indirectly, can't promise you anything there as you will always be a part of the "usual suspects".
    -------
    Fine, fine. Like I said, I'll hold you to that. And you, dear lady, will always be a charter member of "the gang".

    February 26, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Fair wrote:

    Fine, fine. Like I said, I'll hold you to that. And you, dear lady, will always be a charter member of "the gang".
    -----------------------
    Ever since "Democrat Class Warfare" left, that makes you the CEO of Usual Suspects, LLC.

    February 26, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    Tommy G

    Well, look slike Christie is still standing tall and talking to large crowds that want to hear him. Now that really must gall all you lefties, doesn't it? Tell the truth now. All your lies and mud, millions of taxpayer money spent, all for not. Christie is going to be around for a long time. so you'd better get used to it. You got nothing on him but your lies and fantasy.
    ***************************************
    Yes, talking to crowds that have to pay to hear him, like the fundraisers he's been doing for the other people afflicted with Conservative Victimization Syndrome. The investigation is still young, and there are plenty of rocks left to turn over, so who knows? Besides, its Issa who failed miserably at finding anything with the President, and we know how much it curdles your blood to see him in charge while the hapless GOP keeps shooting themselves. The good thing about this exercise is that the sleazy operation that Christie has been running has finally been exposed for the paper tiger it is. He was sued for defamation of character 20 eyars agao, and it appears as though he learned nothing in the intervening 20 years except how to backpedal away from longtime friends and associates. And we're the ones living in a fantasy world?

    February 26, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Fair is Fair
    Fine, fine. Like I said, I'll hold you to that. And you, dear lady, will always be a charter member of "the gang".
    -------------------------------------------------
    Physician heal thyself....

    February 26, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    Christie is not a major concern for 2016. There will be "unexpected" entries into that fray, that the Dems haven't anticipated.

    February 26, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    How can he still be so big after lap band surgery? The guy is an out-of-control food addict.

    February 26, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Christie is not a major concern for 2016. There will be "unexpected" entries into that fray, that the Dems haven't anticipated.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Yes, but will they be as funny as the "unexpected entries" you had in 2012?
    Gee, I certainly hope so!
    Memories of Herman "Where're the White women at?" Cain still crack me up, and Rick Perry and his 3 "points of light" on stage blackout is enough to make my eyes water!

    February 26, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Tampa Tim

    Rick – Unexpected entries, and the usual ones too. Santorum, Perry, Paul, Cruz, Rubio, Bachmann, Mittens, McCain, Bush, Cain, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Hannity, Doocie, Rove, Kasich, Walker, Scott, Barbour, and Nugent. Who else?

    February 26, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Gosh. We've got CEO's of Usual Suspects and Charter Memberships of The Gang? How fancy is that?

    We're moving on up here on the ticker. Yes, indeed.

    February 26, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. salty dog

    Tommy, his legal outcome is yet to be determined, his guilt in court of public opinion is all that will matter, you've been doing this (issa) for years now, just like obamacare, enjoy.

    February 26, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
1 2