"I was wrong to remove my mask at the White House": Chris Christie films moving PSA after ICU stint

Christie split with Trump on the issue following his hospitalization, repeatedly urging Americans to mask up

Published December 17, 2020 3:15PM (EST)

Chris Christie (Getty/Jeff Zelevansky)
Chris Christie (Getty/Jeff Zelevansky)

Former Republican governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, who was hospitalized in October after contracting the coronavirus at the White House, released a public service announcement advertisement on Wednesday in which he expressed regret for not wearing a mask, and urged others to not let the issue divide the country.

"This message isn't for everyone. It's for all those people who refuse to wear a mask. You know, lying in isolation in ICU for seven days I thought about how wrong I was to remove my mask at the White House," Christie says in the PSA. "Today, I think about how wrong it is to let mask wearing divide us, especially as we now know you're twice as likely to get Covid-19 if you don't wear a mask. Because if you don't do the right thing, we could all end up on the wrong side of history. Please wear a mask."

Since his hospitalization, Christie, who in May urged the country to reopen the economy because there will be "deaths no matter what," has repeatedly endorsed masking guidelines. A week after his recovery, he published a personal essay in the Wall Street Journal, titled, "I Should Have Worn a Mask," in which the former Garden State governor condemns the social divide over face coverings as "one of the worst aspects" of political discourse today.

"One of the worst aspects of America's divided politics is the polarization of something as practical as a mask," Christie wrote. "It's not a partisan or cultural symbol, not a sign of weakness or virtue. It's simply a good method — not a perfect one, but a proven one — to contain a cough or prevent the virus from getting in your mouth or nose. Wear it or you may regret it — as I did."

The former GOP presidential hopeful announced his COVID-19 diagnosis after spending several days in a debate prep room with President Donald Trump, campaign manager Bill Stepien and former spokesperson for LifeLock brand identity theft protection services Rudy Giuliani, none of whom wore masks. That same weekend, Christie attended the White House nomination ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, an event now thought to lead to an outbreak that infected more than two dozen White House staff.

All debate prep attendees but Giuliani later tested positive for the virus, and Christie, who suffers from asthma and has struggled for years with weight loss, checked himself into a hospital the same day as Trump. Giuliani was hospitalized after contracting the disease earlier this month.

Christie later cited those two White House events specifically in a New York Times interview, but explained that at the time he had believed the executive mansion was "a safe zone," thanks to testing that he and "many others" went through each day.

The White House has never in the last two months replied to Salon's multiple questions about how often Trump was tested in the weeks leading up to his diagnosis.

According to CNN, the new ad is reportedly bankrolled by COVID Collaborative, a foundation co-founded by Ray Chambers, a former financier and wealthy philanthropist in New Jersey, Christie's home state, who worked for several years at the United Nations and currently serves as an ambassador for global strategy at the World Health Organization. The Trump administration withdrew from the agency and cut U.S. funding earlier this year, alleging the group had been shielding China from blame for the pandemic.

Christie's PSA will air on Fox News, SiriusXM Radio and Newsmax, a far-right cable network which has peddled conspiracy theories about the pandemic and regularly criticizes mask mandates.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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