Updated at 8:05 p.m. EST on Jan. 8
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that he was “outraged” to learn his aides snarled traffic on a major commuter bridge last year as political revenge against one of his opponents.
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable,” Christie said in a statement. “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”
Christie’s remarks came after newly released documents revealed earlier Wednesday that one of his top aides had approved closing lanes on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, seemingly in retribution to the mayor of Fort Lee, who declined to endorse Christie’s ultimately successful reelection bid.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Christie, wrote in an email to a Christie ally at the Port Authority in August, weeks before lane closures created mayhem on the first day of school. Christie had previously denied that anyone in his office had any role in the lane closures.
The revelation that one of his top aides sanctioned the closures quickly became a threat Wednesday to Christie’s 2016 presidential ambitions, and to the reputation he has crafted as a no-nonsense politician who is above everyday partisan sniping.
“One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better,” Christie said in his statement. “This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”
After Christie’s statement, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich questioned whether the governor was truly clueless about the “venomous form of political retaliation.” He told CNN, “As this story continues and as things begin to unravel, with emails, the actions of counterparts, resignations, engagement of defense counsel, that position becomes … more and more difficult to believe.” The lane closures, he added, not only caused unnecessary stress for motorists, but also delayed response times for the town’s emergency services and police force.
This story was updated to include comments from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.