New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office released a scathing attack on MSNBC after a New Jersey mayor said during a broadcast Saturday that high-ranking officials in the governor's administration tried to pressure her into approving a redevelopment project in exchange for much-needed Hurricane Sandy relief funds.
In a nearly 1,600-word statement issued while Christie was in Florida on a fundraising trip, spokesman Colin Reed went after multiple MSNBC hosts for reporting on the so-called "Bridgegate" scandal that has plagued the governor's administration for weeks.
"MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week," Reed said.
In an exclusive interview Saturday on UP w/ Steve Kornacki, Hoboken Mayor Zimmer recounted conversations she said she had with New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guagdano and Christie's commissioner of community affairs, Richard Constable, during which they both suggested she could get easier access to hurricane relief funds if she signed off on a major redevelopment project favored by the governor.
“The bottom line is, it’s not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer,” Zimmer said in the interview.
Constable, through a spokesperson, denied the mayor's claims. “Mayor Zimmer’s allegation that on May 16, 2013, Commissioner Constable conditioned Hoboken’s receipt of Sandy aid on her moving forward with a development project is categorically false,” said Lisa Miller, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Zimmer provided MSNBC documents and diary entries to support her claims.
Christie's office dismissed Zimmer's assertions as political sour grapes. "It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television,” Reed said.
Zimmer's allegations reverberated Saturday with several New Jersey lawmakers signaling that Christie's administration has some explaining to do.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone -- a Democrat whose district includes parts of the Jersey Shore, which was devastated by Sandy -- called for an inquiry into the allegations. "Clearly this is something the U.S. attorney should be looking at," he said on MSNBC's UP w/ Steve Kornacki. "The concern we all have is about what I call abuse of power or a culture of corruption."
Some Democrats in the New Jersey legislature echoed Pallone's recommendation and vowed to pursue the mayor's claims.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney issued a statement calling Zimmer's allegations "extremely disturbing" and pledged to get more information. "These new revelations suggest a pattern of behavior by the highest ranking members of this administration that is deeply offensive to the people of New Jersey. If true, they could be illegal. There is no place in public service for actions like this or for the people who are responsible," he said.
State Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chair of the legislative committee currently investigating the "Bridgegate" scandal also dogging Christie, said Zimmer's claims "raise concern about abuse of government power." Wisniewski said the committee would meet with its special counsel to consider its next steps.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak also vowed to dig into the mayor’s assertions. “These are very serious criminal allegations," he told MSNBC's Alex Witt. "We’re going to get to the bottom of this. There are federal investigations, state investigations. This certainly goes to the top of the list in terms of importance to find out who said what, and find out all the evidence that’s available to us."
Democrats were not the only lawmakers to speak out about the mayor's allegations. Republican Assemblyman Mike Doherty called on Lt. Gov. Guagdano to "come clean" about what happened between her and Zimmer. “I think Lieutenant Governor Guadagno needs to say this is untrue,” Doherty told PolitickerNJ. “I’ve always found her to be trustworthy. It’s appropriate for her to comment. The lieutenant governor cannot allow this to go unchallenged.”