New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is pushing back on a New York Times reporter’s remarks made in a segment on Tuesday’s Morning Joe. Christie spokesperson Colin Reed sent an e-mail on Tuesday afternoon, refuting what he described as “no fewer than five misleading statements” by Times national correspondent Kate Zernike during her interview on the show.
The Christie administration took issue with Zernike’s claims that their attempts to meet with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer were an attempt to “threaten people.” Instead, wrote Reed, “Governor Christie has promised a thorough and complete review so something like this never happens again, and hiring a third-party to assist with fact gathering and meeting with those involved are first steps in that process.”
To Zernike’s assertion that the Christie administration has “not released the retainer agreement” for Randy Mastro, the attorney hired to conduct their internal review, Reed pointed to recent articles reporting on Mastro’s $650 an-hour legal fee. He went on to say that the New Jersey taxpayers are paying the legal fees for the lawyer retained by the legislature investigating the George Washington Bridge closures. Zernike had noted that the taxpayers were footing the bill for Gov. Christie’s lawyer’s fees.
Lastly, to Zernike’s point that Christie’s office “seems kind of shut down” and that they scheduled a town hall event that “may be cancelled due to snow conveniently,” the governor’s office pointed to Christie’s “robust public schedule,” and that Thursday’s town hall-style event was planned prior to news about the incoming snow storm.
This is the second instance Zernike’s claims have been met with push-back. The reporter broke a story in the Times on Jan. 31 about a letter from the lawyer of David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official and ally of Christie. Zernike originally reported the letter saying Wildstein “had the evidence to prove” the governor knew about the closures. But as the story evolved, editors at the Times softened the phrase multiple times and ultimately said “evidence exists.” Zernike has since admitted to the inaccuracies from the initial report.
The governor has been criticized for the September closure of two local access lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., leading to the George Washington Bridge. Traffic was halted for days, which the Port Authority originally justified with a traffic safety study. The state committee investigating the incident most recently issued 18 new subpoenas on Monday to view documents related to the lane closures.
In the days following an MSNBC exclusive interview with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Christie’s office called the news organization a “partisan network that has been openly hostile to Gov. Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him.” Zimmer alleged on camera that the administration had threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy Aid over a real estate project.