Government Shutdown Closes New Jersey Beaches -- Except to Gov. Chris Christie
By Rob Tornoe
"Well, I'm sorry, they're not the governor."
That was Gov. Chris Christie's response to widespread criticism of his family's use of a beach that's been closed to the public due to New Jersey's government shutdown.
Calling into Fox 29's Good Day Philadelphia from the governor's residence at Island Beach State Park, Christie defended his family's use of the beach after photos of the governor sitting in the sun before heading to Trenton on Sunday were taken by NJ Advance Media and published by NJ.Com and the Star-Ledger.
"This is an incredible scandal," Christie said. "They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with."
Last Monday, Christie disclosed he and his family planned to use the official residence at the popular beach over the July 4 holiday. But the subsequent government shutdown caused by an impasse over the budget has led to widespread criticism of Christie's use of the beach as police turned away cars, bicyclists and joggers attempting to enter the popular park.
"You can understand why a lot of people are upset," Good Day Philadelphia co-host Alex Holley said. "They can't go to that beach, they want to be able to do what you're doing, and they can't."
"Well, I'm sorry, they're not the governor," Christie shot back. "We have a residence in Princeton, and that place is a place where people can go and tour, but they can't if the government is closed. Am I supposed to move out and stay in a hotel?"
During a news conference on Sunday, Christie told reporters he "didn't get any sun" at the beach. But NJ Advance Media photo journalist Andrew Mills, shooting from a small plane about a thousand feet about Island Beach State Park, was able to capture photos of Christie sitting on the beach with his family.
" 'I didn't get any sun,' " he told the media," Mills wrote in a post explaining how he captured the viral images of Christie sunbathing with his family. "That wasn't true, and we had the irrefutable evidence."
When later shown the photos Mills captured, the governor's spokesman confirmed that Christie was on the beach "briefly" before heading to Trenton for the press conference.
"He did not get any sun," Brian Murray, the governor's spokesman, told the Star-Ledger. "He had a baseball hat on."
Tens of thousands of state workers remained furloughed as New Jersey enters its third day of a budget shutdown that hinges on Christie's proposal to restructure Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
Christie wants a bill requiring Horizon to develop a plan for allocating its "excess" surplus to help pay for drug treatment and other care of the poor and uninsured.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) calls that a "Christie tax" on Horizon's 3.8 million policyholders.
In an attempt to break the impasse, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) is scheduled to meet with Robert Marino, the CEO of Horizon, at 1 p.m. Monday in the statehouse.