At town hall, Christie talks bridge scandal, pot and missing plane
March 20th, 2014
02:20 PM ET
4 months ago

At town hall, Christie talks bridge scandal, pot and missing plane

Flemington, New Jersey (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was asked Thursday about the George Washington Bridge scandal for the first time at a town hall since the controversy that's roiling his administration made national headlines in January.

The Republican governor also got into a heated debate with a resident about his marijuana policy, and was later asked about the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.

Unlike his last two town halls, there were no vocal protests at the event in Flemington. However, a group of 10 demonstrators wearing white t-shirts that collectively spelled the word "Bridgegate" stood up frequently and raised their hands in hopes of being called on.

Christie town hall 2

Monday morning quarterbacking?

Frank Kanter of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, started off his question in a friendly tone, proposing that he and his friends take care of Christie's dry cleaning if the governor lets them hang out at his house, "down a few beers, watch TV, (and) play pool."

Jokingly firing back, Christie asked: "You want to get married?"

As the audience laughed, Kanter stayed silent. "I think that's a no," Christie said, judging from Kanter's reaction.

Keeping a cordial tone, Kanter transitioned into a question about the bridge scandal. He argued that Christie fired his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, for the wrong reasons.

At a January 9 press conference, Christie announced that he had fired Kelly after finding out through the media that she had lied about her involvement in an alleged orchestrated plot to close off access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

During the press conference, Christie said he "terminated her employment because she lied to me."

But Kanter said Kelly should have been fired for the offense, not the lie. "You made the firing contingent on the lie…The firing should be contingent on the involvement in an illegal act."

Christie responded saying there were "lots of reasons for the firing," but added people shouldn't interpret that she was only fired because she lied.

The governor cut his ties with Kelly, as well as another top adviser, Bill Stepien, after documents were released showing the two had coordinated with David Wildstein, a political appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to arrange the lane closures for four days. Wildstein resigned before the controversy exploded onto the national landscape with the release of the documents.

A state legislative committee and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey have been investigating the incident, including allegations that the lanes were closed as an act of political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee-which sits at the foot of the bridge-for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid last year.

Christie has maintained that he knew nothing of the lane closures before they occurred and found out about the traffic problems through media reports. He also says he didn't know his advisers' were involved until January, shortly before he held the nearly two hour press conference.

"Inherent to what I was saying was that I disapproved of the act also. And I did. And do," he said Thursday. "If she had told me the truth, she would have got fired, too, because of what she did. But I never had the chance to hear the truth."

"When you can't count on people to tell you the truth in an enterprise this size, you're sunk," he added. "That's why I made the emphasis on that, but please don't take from it that I thought the underlying conduct was somehow OK, because it was not."

He repeatedly said Thursday that their actions were wrong and he doesn't approve of what happened. He didn't go into whether it was illegal or not, pointing to the pending investigations.

Kanter, the man who asked the question, later told CNN he felt like Christie "danced around it a lot."

"He's Monday morning quarterbacking here," he said.

Another woman at the event said she feels "very sorry" for Christie, adding that "people are getting the impression that you're guilty before you're proven innocent."

"When you're in public life, you have to come to grips with the fact that you aren't always treated fairly," he responded, but urged her not to feel sorry for him.

"I can't sit around and get into a pity party for myself. Just can't. I have a job to do," he said.

Marijuana and the airline mystery

One woman confronted Christie about his position on marijuana, saying she doesn't understand his "rational on the issue" and pointed to a friend who she says is serving two years in prison because he was using pot to treat his pain.

Christie challenged her, asking if she even know his stance on the issue, then went on to explain he supports medical marijuana only for people who have exhausted every other alternative and have the approval of two doctors.

While medical marijuana was already legal in the state, Christie signed a bill in September that would make it easier for minors to access edible marijuana for medicinal purposes and remove the limit on the number of marijuana strains that may be cultivated.

Father of sick girl to Gov. Christie: Legalize medical marijuana for kids

However, he has strongly insisted he would not go any farther in terms of loosening marijuana laws, arguing New Jersey would not become the next Colorado or Washington state.

"I will not decriminalize marijuana, I will not permit recreational use, and I will not legalize marijuana, because I think that is the wrong message to send to children in this state and to young adults," he said.

As for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that's been missing for nearly two weeks, one woman asked Christie why NASA wasn't involved in the search and recovery efforts.

Christie described the story as an "extraordinary mystery" and said he was "as mystified" as everyone else.

The governor acknowledged that in his job, he's not privy to that kind of information but said he trusted the Obama administration was doing its best to help.

"Sometimes as governor you know certain things that are going on, sometimes you don't. The one thing you don't ever do is, I think , speculate irresponsibly about this kind of stuff, if you're a person of authority or in government," he said.

"You keep quiet and talk about the things you know about, keep quiet about the things you don't," he continued. "While I have any number of disagreements on policy with the President, I certainly don't believe that the President would ever do anything that would impede with our country's ability or the world's ability to answer a question like this."


Filed under: Chris Christie • Marijuana • New Jersey
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Nobody asked the Governor who makes the best pizza in New Jersey .

    I think he is avoiding telling the truth over fear of retaliation and incrimination , take the 5th !

    March 20, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    "Christie responded saying there were "lots of reasons for the firing," but added people shouldn't interpret that she was only fired because she lied."
    --------------------------
    Uh, excuse me. But, did not Gov. Christie say that he fired Kelly because she had lied to him? Furthermore, did not Gov. Christie say that he didn't ask her any questions? So when Christie says "lost of reasons", just what exactly is he talking about? Because "lots of reasons" seems to contradict most everything that he's said regarding Kelly's firing.

    March 20, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. Gary

    I bet the guy in the black suit and red tiy is praying the rail doesn't break.

    March 20, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  4. O'drama ya Mama

    During the press conference, Christie said he "terminated her employment because she lied to me."

    Christie responded saying there were "lots of reasons for the firing," but added people shouldn't interpret that she was only fired because she lied.

    "Inherent to what I was saying was that I disapproved of the act also. And I did. And do," he said Thursday. "If she had told me the truth, she would have got fired, too, because of what she did. But I never had the chance to hear the truth."

    Am I the only one who sees him contradicting himself again and again and again. You were asked why she was fired and all you said was because she lied to me. Then he says people shouldnt assume that is what he fired her for. Wasnt he just given the chance to explain the other reasons for firing her?

    March 20, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    After Krispy trains by dancing around the tough questions he will be ready for "Dancing with the stars."

    March 20, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  6. just asking

    months and months and the democrats still have nothing tying christie to this prank. now playing semantics and word games because the facts just aren't on their side. seriously, christie has been under a spotlight for years now and pegged as a potential presidential candidate. you think a guy this smart with those aspirations is going to get involved in some third grade prank involving a nobody mayor of a nowhere town? of course not. only delusional lefties can drink enough koolaide to come to that conclusion. wake up and smell the facts lefties. you got nothing but smear.

    March 20, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    Bully guy...

    March 20, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  8. salty dog

    Are you saying you didn't even ask her why, of course not you knew why, she did it for him. I know I would never break the law on behalf of my boss without his involvement .

    March 20, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  9. salty dog

    Js, but benghazi carries credit with you, your the biggest fool on here. It amazes me you really can't hear yourself, clearly the most ignorant poster ever, Congrats . Please tell me why you are not interested in the thirteen attacks under your parties last administration, let me answer, your an as.s

    March 20, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  10. salty dog

    And in your mind you treat both investigations with equal scrutiny, here's your sign!

    March 20, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. salty dog

    So, let me get this straight, the evidence points to his innocence, your just too easy to be made a fool. You do it to yourself you know

    March 20, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. O'drama ya Mama

    just asking

    months and months and the democrats still have nothing tying christie to this prank. now playing semantics and word games because the facts just aren't on their side. seriously, christie has been under a spotlight for years now and pegged as a potential presidential candidate. you think a guy this smart with those aspirations is going to get involved in some third grade prank involving a nobody mayor of a nowhere town? of course not. only delusional lefties can drink enough koolaide to come to that conclusion. wake up and smell the facts lefties. you got nothing but smear.
    March 20, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Do you hold the same standards in regard to Benghazi or the IRS?

    March 20, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. salty dog

    Rube, I believe is the appropriate word.

    March 20, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Is this the most recent town meeting photo of Chris Christie?

    March 20, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  15. salty dog

    You would help your cause more by saying nothing. What do you suppose that means? Your every post proves your looking for a very uninformed person to indoctrine,your truly a sad p.o.s., but you already knew that.

    March 20, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  16. Wake up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Salty babe, you're wasting your time. Like I've always been told. Don't enter into a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

    March 20, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    months and months and the democrats still have nothing tying christie to this prank. now playing semantics and word games because the facts just aren't on their side. seriously, christie has been under a spotlight for years now and pegged as a potential presidential candidate. ... .... .... ....
    ------------------
    Democrats don't need Bridgegate to deny Christe the White House. Republicans have already done a pretty thorough job of that following Supestorm Sandy. Christie would do about as well as nationally as Rudy Guiliani did in 2008, if not worse.

    March 20, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    O'Drama wrote:

    Am I the only one who sees him contradicting himself again and again and again. You were asked why she was fired and all you said was because she lied to me. Then he says people shouldnt assume that is what he fired her for. Wasnt he just given the chance to explain the other reasons for firing her?
    ---------------------------–
    "Can you hear me now?"
    "Yes, hypocrisy and contradiction. You're both coming in loud and clear."

    March 20, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |