February 26th, 2014
11:12 AM ET
6 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

    The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you are always wrong affect my life everyday – pollsters and weathermen
    -------------------------------------------------
    He's right.
    But there's only ONE profession in America where you get paid for doing NOTHING: Being a Republican congressperson.

    February 26, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    You have to admire Christie's ability to act as if his political world were not crumbling around him, dontcha?
    Kinda brings to mind images of Nero fiddling, and graphic depictions of the last days of Pompeii.

    February 26, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    What else do you expect the man to do? Cry? Deny? While joking might look bad, the other choices might be worse.

    February 26, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. Wake up People!

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. The only polls that count are FOX polls. Just ask President Mittens.

    It's funny when it's a poll about President Obama's ratings dropping it's the end of the world and everyone hates him but when it's one of them, it's useless unless it's in their favor.

    February 26, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. S.B. Stein

    If I am correct, Christie would have to resign before running for president. If that is the case, then run Christie! If it isn't the case than do the job here and don't be RGA chair. I wish he wouldn't be so damn ideological because he refuses to raise taxes at all. If you don't look at both sides of the ledger, then you aren't doing the most responsible thing. The wealthy haven't been doing all that they can do to support and grow the economy of the state. If he can get them do build things in the state and talk to businesses as to why they are leaving and going to other "high tax" states like NY, then there might be hope for him.

    If he thinks cutting the pension is the best thing to do, then he should have talked to previous governors that worked on the contracts. Workers here in the state have been the only one paying in consistantly.

    February 26, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. tom l

    @Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "You have to admire Christie's ability to act as if his political world were not crumbling around him, dontcha?
    Kinda brings to mind images of Nero fiddling, and graphic depictions of the last days of Pompeii" And I don't know if you should use the Nero/Pompeii analogy. It might confuse Rudy. :) He had a hard time understanding the Jets vs. Sharks analogy I gave yesterday... :)
    ==========

    Or perhaps he isn't guilty of anything so he doesn't have anything to worry about. I know y'all have convicted him but so far they haven't found anything yet. If they get him, so be it. But he is innocent until proven guilty.

    February 26, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    I don't care what he says, he is gone–it does not matter. Bridge scandal tarnished. He will not be in WH. Period. GOP is gotten rotten. Smelling up to here.

    February 26, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. just saying

    at a town hall drawing laughter from the audience that waited in line outside as snow came down in Long Hill, New Jersey.
    --

    yeah, sure sounds like his world is crumbling around him.... delusional witch hunting demorcats. been months, still got nothing but lies and innuendo.

    February 26, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    “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.”
    ------------------------------------
    That doesn't mean the storm is over for you Christie. An avalanche is about to dump on your administration.

    February 26, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  10. CB FL

    Will he be laughing when in is in a orange jumpsuit?

    February 26, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    tom l wrote:

    Kinda brings to mind images of Nero fiddling, and graphic depictions of the last days of Pompeii" And I don't know if you should use the Nero/Pompeii analogy. It might confuse Rudy. He had a hard time understanding the Jets vs. Sharks analogy I gave yesterday...
    --------------------------------–
    What part of me calling your analogy "just plain weird" that you still don't understand? You compared the two major political parties to two fictional street gangs at war with one another. I had even cited the name of the play. It was quite the stretch.

    You're sounding like a typical conservative, tom. When people don't agree with you, then that means that they don't understand what you mean.

    February 26, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. salty dog

    Tom, he's been found guilty in the court of public opinion, that's the world of politics. They both play the game, only he brought this on himself, the Democrats didn't do it. Maybe Scott Walker gave him some advice, ignore it, and hope it goes away.

    February 26, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. rs

    Hmmmm. Well Mr. Christie- polling is a science and a very accurate one- especially as it applies to elections. But, hey we know how the GOP feels about Science, so your corollary really ought to be: "Polls as applied to our party are always wrong when they are unfavorable; but, always accurate when they show the other party in an unfavorable light".

    That will be wrong, naturally…. but hey, you're the GOP.

    February 26, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Christie is great at telling jokes.
    He was cracking off jokes about being the one that laid down the cones at GWB when they first asked him what was going on at the bridge.
    He's a funny guy that Christie.
    Say, is this the same town meeting where NO ONE asked him about his bridge woes, and Sandy Relief Fund woes?
    Yeah, I thought so.
    He sure can control a room huh?
    Well, him and his people....the few he's got left.

    February 26, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. 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.

    February 26, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Lisa P.

    He forgot supply-side economists - they haven't been right yet but that doesn't stop fools like Governor Christie from spouting their community-destroying nonsense. Thirty years of "trickle down" and the people who do the real work in this nation are worse off than they've ever been while the so-called job creators keep on raking in their tax breaks and towns are going broke trying to maintain minimal-level service. Thanks, Governor Christie! You're a real kick in the head!

    February 26, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    “The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you are always wrong affect my life everyday – pollsters and weathermen,”

    Sorry, but you can add politician to the list.

    February 26, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Chris-E...al

    ITs a big long bridge PPL ! A bridge ??? Is this all the Dims haue got ? Be careful oh you will mess up this investigation to like everthing you touch .You are Jinxed ? But you will be Victorious at wasteing tax payer money ! You have lots of experience an many a references your great at this to your credit .thx

    February 26, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. king

    aahhh i wonder if Christi was thinking that the polls which had hm at 70 percent a year ago was wrong, or was he pushing it down every citizen throught in new jersey, typical republicans, when it favors you praise it with every thing you got, but its against you slam it twice as hard.

    February 26, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    "the New Jersey governor cracked wise about poll numbers."

    Yes. But will he be the last man laughing? Time will tell.

    February 26, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. Tony in NJ

    We like our Governor and will keep our Governor. Sorry Dims. Our healthcare plans on the other hand, well we've been screwed out of those by Obama. Something we will not fail to remember in November. See you at the polls for the big Democrat removal party.

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

    All they have on Krispy is emails from his appointees, possible misuse of Sandy relief funds for his pet project, and the fact that he had no idea what was going on in the room next yo his office.

    February 26, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. Tampa Tim

    Didn't NJ take the Medicare expansion which helped over a quarter of a million uninsured? FL, on the other hand is screwing almost a million uninsured by not taking the expansion. I am not convinced that the millions who are now insured, the minorities, the poor, the seniors or the veterans are going to embrace the party of Ted Nugent.

    February 26, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. just asking

    Tampa Tim
    All they have on Krispy is emails from his appointees, (not to Christie so no proof of his involvement)
    possible misuse of Sandy relief funds for his pet project, (no proof at all of this)
    and the fact that he had no idea what was going on in the (he doesn't control the nsa like obama does so
    room next yo his office. can't bug and intercept communications)

    got any more witch hunt fiction you need debunked?

    February 26, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    tom l
    I know y'all have convicted him
    -------------------------------------------------
    I don't know about that "y'all", but I do know that I have given up any pretense to the contrary.
    The more they dig, the more they find.
    But hey, O.J. got off...

    February 26, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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