Last night, Chris Christie held a town-hall meeting in Flemington, roughly halfway between Philadelphia and Morristown. At that meeting, he got something he didn't bargain for--his first direct question from a private citizen about Bridgegate.
Fred Kanter of Mountain Lakes took the microphone and after a few jokes with Christie asked the governor to explain himself about why he fired the aide who wrote that “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email at the heart of the scandal.Watch the full exchange here.
Kanter, a Democrat, took issue with Christie’s January statement that Bridget Anne Kelly was fired because she lied to him. Kanter, facing Christie in a room full of about 400 people, called that “a very self-centered reason for firing somebody” and said Kelly should have been let go for her involvement in the lane closures.
It was a question that provoked Christie’s longest statement on Kelly’s behavior since he fired her, and it came after the governor had boasted that residents were not concerned about the closures because they weren’t raising the issue with him at events.
“Let me be really clear — and I thought I was really clear that day — that what happened in that circumstance is unacceptable, not approved by me, would never be approved by me and the folks who were involved in that absolutely would have lost their jobs, whether they told the truth or lied about it,” Christie said.
But the governor wouldn’t go as far as to say Kelly, of Ramsey, had broken any laws, noting that prosecutors are looking into the matter so it would be inappropriate for him to comment..
Christie was matter-of-fact in his response. He was animated, talking with his hands as he often does, but he didn’t raise his voice as he’s done when confronted by critics. The governor called the access lane closures, which tied up traffic in Fort Lee for four days, “wrong and abusive and unacceptable.”
Kanter later said that he thought Christie "danced around the question that I asked."
Ever since Christie returned to the town hall scene, he has done so in mostly Republican territory. This was no exception. Flemington is located in Hunterdon County, which is DEEEEEP red--every office above the city/town/township level is held by Republicans, though Flemington itself just barely went for Obama in 2008. However, this was the first coordinated effort to box Christie in on Bridgegate, as opposed to the haphazard efforts during his other ventures into blue territory. Eleven members of New Jersey Citizen Action sat in a row wearing T-shirts that spelled out "Bridgegate?" They planned to question Christie about the scandal--but he never called on them.
Christie can run from this all he wants. But last night proved he can't hide.