After previously denying involvement, New Jersey governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has admitted that his staff caused a politically-motivated traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge.
“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” said Christie at a news conference Thursday.
Christie said he had fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, one of the aides apparently responsible for the closure, which delayed school buses and emergency vehicles.
The closure was intended by Christie’s staff to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for allegedly not supporting Christie’s re-election campaign. The George Washington Bridge is one of the most heavily traveled route connecting New Jersey to New York. According to the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, over 300,000 people travel the bridge each day.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for the appropriate role of government and for the people that were trusted to serve,” said Christie.
Christie went to Fort Lee on Thursday afternoon to apologize personally to Mayor Mark Sokolich and the community. Lee accepted his apology.
E-mails and texts released on Wednesday showed Christie’s officials plotting the incident: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in an e-mail to David Wildstein, one of the Port Authority appointees.
Christie continued: “I feel humiliated by this. I’m a person who cares deeply about doing my job well. I work extraordinarily hard at it. That’s what I should do. I’ve taken an oath to that effect. But I am humiliated by the fact that I did not know this and that I was deceived. And that’s an awful way to feel.”
Reports, which cannot be confirmed, allege that a patient inside the back of an ambulance caught in the gridlock passed away. Christie responded to that report during his news conference: “It’s awful. Now, I’ve also seen conflicting reports about what the cause of death was and whatever, but it doesn’t matter. It’s awful to hear.”
As far as this scandal hurting his presidential aspirations, Christie said he’s not focusing on that. “My focus is on the people of New Jersey and the job that they gave me,” he added.
The media has focused on the culture Gov. Christie has allowed to exist in his administration. A culture where this behavior is acceptable. New Jersey’s largest paper doubts that Christie didn’t know what was going on in his own administration.
New Jersey Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski told DailyMail that Christie is covering up the facts. “Christie is either ‘a governor who can’t manage his staff or one who isn’t telling the truth,” said Wisniewski.
Wisniewski said that David Wildstein, who pleaded the Fifth during a ‘Bridgegate’ hearing today represents ‘just the tip of the cover-up.’