New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sparked widespread outrage Sunday after he was pictured sunbathing on a beach he closed to the public.
Aerial photos snapped by Andrew Mills, a multimedia specialist at NJ Advance Media, captured the Republican governor lapping up the sun in a beach chair and sandals, surrounded by about a dozen friends and family members, with no one else in sight.
“They were enjoying the beautiful summer day on a beach closed to the public by Christie,” Mills wrote in a piece for NJ.com.
A day earlier, Christie shut down the state’s government, which closed public parks and beaches. He cited a budget standoff in the Legislature.
Mills and a pilot took off in a small plane Sunday afternoon to see whether they could spot Christie near the state-owned governor’s beach house at Island Beach State Park. The plane had already been booked to cover July 4 festivities.
“Did we know he would be sunbathing on a closed beach? No, but we took a shot and it paid off,” Mills said.
Hovering about 1,000 feet in the air, the photographer and pilot soon spotted Christie and his crew.
“It wasn’t difficult to find him,” Mills said. “There Christie was, with family and friends, on a long and empty stretch of beach near the governor’s shore residence, nobody else within a country mile.”
Mills, who has been a photojournalist for 23 years, said the plane passed Christie and then circled back. That’s when he fired away with his long-range lens.
“In one photo, Christie looks me dead in the eye,” Mills said.
At a later news conference, Christie denied spending time at the beach. “I didn’t get any sun,” he told reporters, according to NJ.com.
After the photos surfaced, Christie changed his tune. The governor said he had previously said he would be at the beach house. He said the media only “caught a politician keeping his word,” according to WTXF-TV.
Christie is the least popular governor in two decades, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last month. The survey found only 15% of New Jersey voters approve of him.