The discovery of recent e-mails between Christie’s staff and others who shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey going into New York to intentionally cause traffic jams prompted outrage at the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who apologized this morning for the malicious traffic jam caused by his top aides.
The traffic lanes were shut down across the busy bridge in September, apparently in an act of political retribution against the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee, who had refused to endorse Christie during his reelection campaign.
Christie was asked numerous times if he or his office were involved with the lane shutdown. At first, on December 2, the governor only replied jokingly, agreeing that he was involved and that he was surprised no one had recognized him in the construction hat and overalls. But by mid-December, the allegations continued and Christie began to take them more seriously, holding a press conference to publically and clearly deny his office had anything to do with the traffic delays.
However, e-mails and texts have surfaced proving this bald tale to be untrue. Conversations between Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, and two Port Authority of New York and New Jersey appointees show that the three conspired to close the two lanes on the bridge leading into New York in a calculated effort to upset drivers and cause gridlock in Fort Lee.
The main e-mail pointing to the purely malevolent nature of the bridge lane shutdown was one sent from Kelly to David Wildstein, one of the appointees, which read, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein replied with a simple, “Got it.” The e-mails were sent not from official government accounts, but from personal accounts.
Thursday morning, Christie apologized for his office’s involvement in the malicious traffic jam, saying that he has fired Kelly as well as told his 2013 campaign manager Bill Stepien that he would no longer be working with the Republican Governors Association or becoming state party chairman. Both Port Authority appointees, Wildstein and Bill Baroni, resigned in December as outrage at the lane closures grew heated.
In New Jersey, Democrats allege that this isn’t the first incident they’ve had with Christie’s administration taking it out on other politicians who won’t work with him. They say that Christie and his staff come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who opposes them and have done so many times before. They are glad that Christie is now under the microscope and that some of his bullying tactics are finally coming to light.
Christie continues to deny any knowledge of the lane closure, saying that he was just as shocked as everyone else to see the e-mails from his deputy chief of staff. In the press conference Thursday, he went out of his way to mention that he was not a bully, despite Democrats’ efforts to paint him so.
Though Christie did not seek the Republican nomination for President in 2012, serious rumors have been swirling about a possible run in 2016. Apologizing for this malicious traffic jam is only the first step in clearing his now slightly-tarnished reputation if Christie wants to continue to be seen as the straight-talker he has maintained he is.
By Marisa Corley