Angry about governor missing NJ trooper’s funeral? Christie shrugs it off
Gov. Chris Christie’s appearance at a Donald Trump campaign event during a state trooper’s funeral sparked widespread derision from antagonists, but the governor says critics are politically motivated and have some basic facts wrong.
For instance: Christie says that even if he was in New Jersey on Monday, he wouldn’t have attended State Police trooper Sean Cullen’s funeral. He said it has been decided last week that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno would attend, while he went to a groundbreaking in Essex County.
“She’s the second-ranking state official. Doing that, having her there, shows the respect of the executive branch and the respect of the state government for the police officer or the trooper who has fallen either in or out of the line of duty,” Christie said.
Of the controversy about his absence, he added: “This has much more to do with politics than it has to do with anything else.”
Four state troopers have been killed during Christie’s tenure, not counting two who died on the job of heart attacks. Christie attended funerals for two of the four, and Guadagno has attended all four.
Christie said Trump asked him Sunday to campaign with him Monday, so he canceled the Essex event. He said he will be in New Jersey for a while now and has no further current plans to stump with Trump.
“All this focus and attention on it is I think much more of a media creation than it is anything else. When I go around the state talking to people, I never hear about this. I never hear about it. When real people come up to me, whether it’s at restaurants or at ballfields, whatever, no one comes up to me and says, ‘You’re not here. Are you doing your job?’” Christie said.
Christie said “there’s no formula” to deciding which events he attends and which are attended by Guadagno.
“Everyone will have different opinions about that. That’s OK. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own set of facts, and what happened yesterday is what we’ve been doing consistently over the course of the last six and a half years,” Christie said.
Indeed, opinions about Christie’s absence from Cullen’s funeral and appearance were rampant, from a scathing Daily News cover to Twitter.
Gubernatorial wannabes weigh in
Christie’s political calendar prompted a second prospective Democratic candidate for governor, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, to create an online petition urging Christie to resign.
The website — which includes the slogan "Make New Jersey Great Again," a play on Trump’s trademark — asserts that Christie has made clear he thinks campaigning “with an anti-immigration hate monger” is more important than the people of New Jersey.
He doesn’t really want to be the governor of New Jersey any more. I think his actions show that.
Fulop said the petition’s intent to show Christie residents are extremely disappointed with a series of events, including the response to a January blizzard.
“Our belief, and I think we share the same sentiment that most New Jersey residents have, is that he doesn’t really want to be the governor of New Jersey any more. I think his actions show that. We want to express that being a part-time governor is not acceptable,” Fulop said.
“When those troopers accompany him to campaign all over the country and New Jersey pays for it, it’s OK to be with the troopers. But when there’s really a serious moment, like a funeral, it says a lot about character when somebody didn’t participate and instead chooses to be with Donald Trump.”
An earlier online petition urging Christie’s resignation was created by Phil Murphy, a former United States ambassador to Germany who is considering a run for governor as a Democrat. Murphy’s site has roughly 19,000 signatures – each, incidentally, with an email address that’s valuable to a would-be gubernatorial candidate.
'I'm not resigning'
“He’s taking a lot of flak for the endorsement,” said Seton Hall University political scientist Matthew Hale. “I’m not sure he really cares.”
Christie shrugged off the Fulop petition, saying it’s coming from a Democrat running for governor, and his spokeswoman Joelle Farrell added of Fulop: “This is pretty hypocritical coming from a guy who has done nothing but angle for a run for governor since the day he was elected mayor.”
Christie reiterated that he’s not resigning, as he said two weeks ago when the editorial boards of the Gannett New Jersey newspapers and Star-Ledger suggested he step down.
“I’m not resigning for any of the reasons that they might want me to resign. I’m not resigning. I’m serving my next 21 months. The state is being enormously successful under our leadership,” Christie said. “And they don’t like the fact that I endorsed Donald Trump. Well, that’s OK. Then they can endorse somebody else.”
Fulop’s petition says Christie has missed multiple state troopers’ funerals to campaign with Trump; though Guadagno rather than Christie has attended other funerals, it’s actually been only once that Christie was with Trump.
The petition site also suggests that taxpayers have paid nearly $1 million for troopers to protect him at Trump events. Through the end of 2015, out-of-state travel-related expenses incurred by the State Police unit that protects Christie is close to $1.77 million over six years.