New Jersey governor and potential presidential candidate Chris Christie has apologized for a traffic scandal that could damage his image. The Republican governor held a news conference to say he didn't know about the alleged misconduct of close associates, that he fired subordinates who lied to him, and to defend himself against charges that he's a bully who uses his power for political revenge.
A contrite Christie publicly apologized for his administration’s involvement in a politically-motivated scandal involving the partial closing of America’s busiest bridge.
“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team," he said. "There is 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 we’re trusted to serve."
For four days in September, abrupt and unexpected lane closures on the George Washington Bridge - that links New Jersey to New York City and carries some 300,000 vehicles on a typical day - brought traffic to a standstill. Christie had denied charges he or his team ordered the closing to punish Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, New Jersey for refusing to support his bid for reelection.
"Who in their right mind would close down access to the busiest bridge in the world to send me a message?" said Sokolich.
But recently released e-mails from one of the governor’s aides confirmed his team’s involvement. The governor said he did not know, and was not involved, but takes responsibility for those who authorized the closure of traffic lanes at the bridge. He has fired one aide and withdrawn support for his former campaign manager to become the state's Republican Party chairman.
The popular governor and likely Republican candidate for president also denied that he engages in vindictive and petty political retribution.
“Because I am who I am, but I am not a bully and what I will tell you is that the folks who have worked with me over a long period of time would, I believe, tell you that I am tough but I have shown over the last four years and the tone the we’ve set here that I’m willing to compromise, that I’m willing to work with others," said Christie.
To repair the governor's tarnished image, Republican political consultant Ron Bonjean says he must follow the apology with public outreach.
“The key for him is to show bipartisanship, show warmth, show connection especially in the next several days,and he’s going to have to down play the direct confrontational personality that he has," said Bonjean.
Unless further evidence surfaces showing the governor’s direct involvement, Bonjean says Christie’s apology and response to the scandal should keep any presidential hope he has, alive.