Party’s over for Christie! Gets lambasted in town hall over bridge flap for first time

Chris Christie evaded questions about his traffic scandal during several town halls. His luck finally just ran out

Topics: Chris Christie, Bridgegate, George Washington Bridge, George Washington Bridge scandal, town hall, New Jersey, Editor's Picks, 2016 Elections, GOP, Republicans,

Party's over for Christie! Gets lambasted in town hall over bridge flap for first timeChris Christie addresses a gathering at a town hall-style meeting, Thursday, March 20, 2014, Flemington, N.J. (Credit: AP/Matt Rourke)

FLEMINGTON, N.J. — For several weeks, since it went national, Gov. Christie has dismissed “Bridgegate” as a story driven by partisan enemies and the media. To support that claim Christie rightly noted that in his town halls since January not one of the dozens of voters he engaged directly asked him about it.

His luck ran out Thursday in Hunterdon County, a Republican stronghold that gave him almost 74 percent of the vote last November, a higher percentage than he got from Morris County where Christie and his family have lived for years.

Fred Kanter, 69, from Mountainside zeroed in on Gov. Christie’s remarks back in January when he told reporters he had fired his deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly for lying to him about her role in last September’s GWB lane closures that gave Fort Lee a four-day traffic coronary.

“You said you fired her because she lied to you,” Kanter said. “I think that is a very self-centered reason for firing somebody.”

“You made the firing contingent on the lie, at least that’s what you said at the press conference,” Kanter said. “The firing should be contingent on involvement in an illegal act.”

Kanter, who owns an international business that supplies new parts for antique cars, got a round of applause.

“First off there were lots of reasons for the firing,” Christie responded. “What I said was 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 the one you talked about.”

Kanter followed up with the former U.S. attorney. “Today you told us all that you’re open and you tell it like it is and I think something needed to be said there (like), ‘I fired her because she was involved in an illegal act.’ You understand that?” said Kanter.

“Again you’re saying something that I am not willing to say at this point because I am not willing to prejudge what a prosecutor is going to do and it is inappropriate for me to do that,” Christie countered.

“You as a citizen can clearly come to that conclusion that it was an illegal act,” Christie conceded but noted that as the governor he did not have “the luxury” to do the same because of the pending legislative and criminal probes.

Based on the level of applause, Christie carried that round with the largely Republican St. Magdalen de Pazzi Parish Center crowd.



Afterward Kanter said he was “flabbergasted” when he learned from reporters he had asked the first town hall question on “Bridgegate.” Currently U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman is leading a criminal probe while the state Legislature conducts its own investigation.

So far Kelly, former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien and ex-Port Authority exec David Wildstein have all invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Since January federal prosecutors have widened their focus to include Port Authority chair David Samson, who is a close Christie ally and led his transition team.

As for Christie’s response, Kanter said the governor “danced around” his  question. “The point is she was involved in something that came from within his administration” and Christie wanted to distance himself from it without getting to the bottom of it.

When Kanter was asked if he was a Democrat, Republican or independent voter, he quipped he was an “intelligent” voter.

Throughout the town hall national and local reporters had their eye on a dozen protesters from the Working Families Alliance that has committed to shadow Christie at his town halls. Members of the WFA have disrupted the last two Christie town halls with protest chants about Bridgegate and Christie’s Sandy response.

WFA adopted a different strategy this time out, with a dozen protesters standing together with their arms extended looking to be called on by the governor, who proceeded to ignore them.

After published reports that members of the New Jersey State Police took pictures of  protesters at Tuesday’s town hall acting State Attorney General John Hoffman ordered the NJSP to end the practice.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...