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TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie asserted that he had no knowledge one of his top aides had ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in the fall during a press conference Thursday, Jan. 9. However, he did say he was responsible for the conduct of his staff.
“I didn’t know about it, but it’s my responsibility,” he said at the news conference.
Later, he added “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.”
Christie said he was blindsided by the revelations Wednesday that his staff was involved in the controversy and “heartbroken” by what he called their disloyalty.
He has since fired Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff, who reportedly orchestrated the closures, which had turned the roads in Fort Lee into a parking lot for four days in September. The emails suggest the closures were made to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, who did not endorse the governor in the November gubernatorial election.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, several emails subpoenaed by Democratic legislators revealed that Kelly had ordered the closures. Text messages sent from Kelly to David Wildstein, a former top employee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, showed a “callous” indifference to the traffic closures, Christie said.
“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein wrote of those affected by the closures.
Christie said Thursday that he was unaware of the tactics of his staff, and stated that members had directly lied to him about the incident. He said he believed this to be a traffic study, which was the cited reason for the closures.
Christie also said he never personally tried to get an endorsement from Sokolich.
“I never saw this as political retribution because, as I understand it, he never did anything to us,” Christie said.
The revelations Wednesday caused Christie to cancel a Hurricane Sandy-related speaking engagement in the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township. During that time, Christie said he was “digging in” to the emails and text messages.
Christie said he had plans to meet with the Fort Lee mayor and apologize personally to him the members of the community there later today.
Cape May County GOP Chairman Mike Donohue said, in a prepared statement Thursday, that Christie showed leadership in his response to the allegations.
“Gov. Chris Christie today demonstrated the kind of leadership that he has become known for throughout New Jersey and the nation. His statement today was a rare and refreshing ‘buck stops here’ moment in politics that we have not seen in many years. By apologizing and taking responsibility for the actions of certain staff members and being decisive in dealing honestly with the issues, Gov. Christie has set a higher standard for our other political leaders and elected officials,” Donohue said.