Christie — I’ll fight rich, ‘special interest’ newspaper owners who want your money
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie, fresh from a legislative defeat that denied him the ability to profit from a book sale while in office, says he will continue to fight the state's newspaper industry over legal advertisements, which he called a "government-ordered ripoff" that profits billionaire media owners.
The Legislature last week also declined to take up a Christie-backed bill that would allow municipalities to print their legally mandated notices on their websites instead of in local newspapers. The move would have cost newspapers millions of dollars in revenue and cost perhaps hundreds of journalism jobs.
Newspaper editorialists fought hard against the legislation, calling it Christie's "revenge bill" against a press that has largely been fiercely adversarial during his second term.
During his appearance Thursday night on New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor," a combative Christie continued his attack on journalists, media barons and Democratic lawmakers who opposed the legal notice bill. Christie had targeted them Friday and earlier this week on Twitter.
"Let's unmask these hypocrites in the newspaper business for what they are. They are just another special interest feeding like pigs at the government trough," he said.
"I'm not going to get off this issue," he said.
Christie has said legal notices provide an estimated $80 million in annual revenue to newspapers. Local governments are reimbursed for a large part of their expenses by private companies and individuals.
In response to newspaper executives who called Christie's estimate overblown, the governor challenged them to "open their books."
"They are the ones who know," he said. "I am happy tomorrow before I finish my Christmas shopping, to have Richard Vezza, the publisher of the Star-Ledger, and whoever the hell is in charge of Gannett, bring us your accountants' certified the books."
"They are not telling the truth. And if they wanted to prove otherwise, bring us the books," he said. "Crickets. Crickets."
A lot of Christie's ire was directed at the mega-rich Newhouse family that owns the state's largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, and Gannett, which owns seven dailies in the state, including The Record, which Christie noted suffered layoffs after Gannett purchased the property this year.
"They got to put Newhouse's grubby hands in your pocket while you're being foreclosed on," Christie said, referring to foreclosure notices. "Gannett, an international, multibillion-dollar corporation who needs this $80 million, their share of it, from the taxpayers and the people getting foreclosed on in New Jersey."
"The newspaper industry unmasked themselves. They are just another special interest with their hand out."