Chris Christie offered a full-throated apology today, while firing the staffer who sent the telltale email that started the "Time for some traffic in Fort Lee" scandal. "I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team," Christie said in a press conference. "I also need to apologize for my failure as the governor of this state to understand the true nature of this problem sooner." He said he'd fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly effective immediately. "I've terminated her employment because she lied to me."
Christie said his staff was indeed as tight-knit as advertised, and that he was "heartbroken" someone had betrayed that trust. "I would never have come out here ... and made a joke about these lane closures if I had ever had any inkling that anyone on my staff would have been so stupid." Christie also said he'd instructed his two-time campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to withdraw his nomination to lead the New Jersey Republican Party, and to drop his contract advising the Republican Governor's Association. "Bill has been one of my closest advisers," he said. But "I can never allow personal feelings or longstanding relationships to get in the way of doing my job." Both moves were reported minutes before the announcement by the New York Post. Other quotes:
- In defending how slow he appeared to react to the scandal: "Lemme tell you, everybody, I was blindsided yesterday morning."
- "Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. He was never mentioned to me as someone whose endorsement we were pursuing," Christie said. "I never saw this as political retribution, because I didn't think he did anything to us."
- "It makes me ask about me, 'what did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me?'" Christie said, when asked how the scandal reflected on him. "Believe me, I haven't had a lot of sleep these last two nights, and I've been doing a lot of soul-searching. I'm sick over this."
- On his relationship with Port Authority chief David Wildstein, whom he went to school with: "David and I were not friends in high school, we were not even acquaintances in high school. ... I think some of the stories that have been written like impute an emotional relationship and closeness between me and David that doesn't exist."
- "How do I feel about David now? Listen, what I read yesterday made me angry. ... That language and that callous indifference in those emails from David yesterday are just over the top and outrageous."
- On reports of delayed ambulances. "It's awful to hear. Listen all I can do is apologize for the conduct of people who work for me. I can't do anything else. I can't reverse time. If I could, believe me, I would."