New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken swift action to remedy the bridge traffic scandal by firing a member of his staff, apologizing, and taking responsibility for the actions of his administration.
At a Thursday morning press conference, Christie announced the firing of deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who allegedly orchestrated a traffic jam with a Port Authority director as an act of political vengeance.
“I had no knowledge or involvement on this issue in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover,” Christie said during a Thursday morning press conference.
“I take this action today because it’s my job. I am responsible for what happened,” Christie said.
According to documents, Kelly emailed a Port Authority director, David Wildstein, insinuating that he should close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in the town of Fort Lee to punish the town’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie.
Wildstein resigned in December. Bill Stepian, a former campaign manager for Christie, was also involved, engaging in a text message exchange with Kelly appearing to mock Fort Lee voters. Christie asked Stepian not to run for state Republican Party chair, and to cease consulting for the Republican Governor’s Association.
Many conservatives were pleased with Christie’s quick action, and willingness to take responsibility – unless more evidence surfaces showing Christie had a deeper involvement.
“He took immediate action. He was contrite and genuinely distraught,” noted KTTH host David Boze immediately following the Thursday press conference. “If he was lying in any way, this is the end of his career.”
KTTH host Ben Shapiro said on Wednesday that the scandal is about the abuse of government power – not to which party the politician belongs.
“The vast majority of America looks at this and is outraged,” Shapiro said Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from; abuse of executive power is the problem regardless of whether you agree with the person.”
KTTH host Michael Medved said that Christie should use the scandal as an opportunity to double-down on his reputation as an anti-corruption crusader. But, the current scandal may subside before the 2016 presidential campaign – especially if Christie handles it responsibly and genuinely.
“If he was lying today – it would be insane for him to have spoken in such certain terms he did today if he were telling anything less than the truth because he’ll be caught and he’ll be disgraced,” Medved said.
Some have contrasted Christie’s response the bridge scandal to that of President Barack Obama, who has largely avoided taking responsibility for scandals like Benghazi, or the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.
Medved contrasted Christie’s response – his press conference went on from more than 90 minutes, and he took dozens of pointed questions from reporters – to that of Hillary Clinton who yelped, “What difference does it make?” under questioning about the Benghazi affair.
“Hillary Clinton of course, talking about Benghazi where people actually died, she says what difference does it make? Chris Christie never responded like that,” he said.
On Wednesday, CNN host Don Lemon asked Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., why it might be OK for Obama to blame scandals on aides or lack of knowledge, but not Christie.
“What’s the difference between Christie not knowing and the president not knowing?” Lemon said.
“The difference is the issue that President Obama said he didn’t know about were policy issues; this is a scandal,” Wasserman-Schultz responded.
Shapiro, Medved, and Boze noted the swiftness that the press went after Christie in the scandal. A similar story would have taken weeks had it involved Obama or a Democrat.
Addressing the scandal on his Thursday show, Rush Limbaugh wondered whether there is a “culture” of retaliation in New Jersey since Wildstein knew to shut down traffic with a simple email from Kelly.
“They know immediately to shut down some onramp lanes to the George Washington Bridge?” he said.
Meanwhile, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has opened an in inquiry into the bridge scandal, acting on a referral from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey inspector general.