New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said questions about possible political payback behind the shutdown of lanes on the George Washington Bridge are hysteria led by the news media.
“Let’s not be hysterical about this,” the 51-year-old Republican told interviewer Eric Scott yesterday on “Ask The Governor,” a monthly radio call-in program on WKXW-FM in Ewing. “You folks are the only people, at the moment, who are asking me about this.”
Christie last month fired an aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, whose e-mail linked her to four days of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic in a town where the mayor didn’t endorse him for re-election. Christie has maintained that he knew nothing of the matter, which is being probed by a federal prosecutor and lawmakers in Trenton.
In the interview, the governor, who also cut ties to his political adviser Bill Stepien as the controversy erupted, declined to give details on the issue.
“We’re going through an internal investigation,” Christie said. “All of this stuff will come out.”
In the meantime, he said, “I will be damned if I let any of this stuff get in the way of my real job.”
Legislative hearings in November and December focused on the reasons for the traffic jams in Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. The issue is under review by the legislative Select Committee on Investigation and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey.
Plans for a week of tie-ups in September on the New Jersey side of the bridge to Manhattan, began with an Aug. 13 e-mail -- “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” -- from Kelly, then a deputy chief of staff for the governor, to David Wildstein, an executive in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. Wildstein replied: “Got it,” according to documents released by the committee.
Lane closings led to gridlock of four hours or more from Sept. 9 to 12, delaying commuters, emergency responders and schoolbuses. Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, got no answer from Port Authority officials when he asked whether the jams were linked to his lack of endorsement for Christie’s re-election bid in November. The Port Authority said it was conducting a traffic study.