It’s been a month since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) held his first town hall of the George Washington Bridge scandal era. And in that time, he had not received a single question from a town hall attendee about the scandal. Until Thursday.
At an event in Flemington, N.J., Fred Kanter, a Boonton, N.J. businessman, stood up and asked Christie about his reasons for firing his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly. (Kelly is the Christie aide who wrote the “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email in August 2013. A few weeks later, access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed in Fort Lee. N.J., causing a multi-day traffic jam in the town.)
“After Bridget Kelly told you that she had lied to you about her involvement in the closing of the lanes, the next day you had a press conference and said you fired her because she lied to you,” Kanter said, referring to Christie’s Jan. 9 press conference, which followed the release of a first batch of internal documents tying members of his administration to the closures. “And I know that if a subordinate lies to you that’s a big blow to your ego, esteem, self-respect and everything like that. I think that is a very self-centered reason for firing somebody. Her real offense was being involved in the shutting down of the George Washington Bridge. I don’t know if it’s illegal, it sure smells bad. I would think you would fire her for what she did.”
“Well, first off, there are lots of reasons for the firing and what I said the day afterwards was that I can’t have somebody work for me who lies to me, because that stuff can extend to a whole variety of subjects that are much broader than just the one that you talked about,” Christie said.
“Agreed,” Kanter said.
“Do not take from my silence, on the act, that the act was countenanced. In fact, the whole press conference was about the fact that what happened was absolutely unacceptable and that I didn’t know anything about it, and if I had, I wouldn’t have permitted it. So my view was that, inherent in what I was saying, was that I disapproved of the act also. And I did, and do. But don’t take from the fact that I said I fired her because she lied, that that means if she had told me the truth — if she had told me the truth she would have gotten fired too, because of what she did. But I never had the chance to hear the truth. And the offense — the offense, first and foremost, is not being honest with the person you’re working for. The secondary offense was if she had been honest and told me, yeah she would have been fired anyway.”
Christie went on to repeat something he has said before, concerning whether or not the lane closures were illegal.
“I’m going to put aside the question of whether it’s legal or illegal, because there are prosecutors looking at this and all the rest of it, and I’ve said all along as governor, since I used to be a prosecutor, that I don’t talk about that kind of stuff because I want the prosecutors to do their job and we’re letting them do their job,” he said.
Christie’s office later uploaded video of the exchange to YouTube.