When Gov. Chris Christie said on last week's Ask the Governor that he and his family would be spending the Fourth of July holiday at the Jersey Shore, nobody gave it much thought.

Now on day three of a government shutdown, Christie is under fire from all sides after aerial photographs by NJ.com showed the governor, his family and their guests enjoying a deserted beach of Island Beach State Park — which closed along with the rest of the state government

Christie has defended the use of the gubernatorial beach house as a right associated with holding the office. But that hasn't stopped people from the public and private sectors from criticizing the governor, who already enjoys historically low polling numbers.

The governor doesn't even have to look outside of his own administration to find a critic of his stay at the beach. Lt. Governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno took to Twitter in a rare public denouncement of the governor's actions:

Guadagno's opponent in the November election — Democrat Phil Murphy, who just returned from a trip abroad, also weighed in:

Several op-ed pieces have been critical of the governor's actions as well. Just across the Delaware River an article appearing Philly.com — written by columnist Jenice Armstrong, who'd hoped to visit the park herself — dubbed the whole event "Beachgate."

"What gall. It was a low-down thing to do," Jenice Armstrong said. "By dragging a beach chair out onto Island Beach Park and plunking his hefty, shorts-encased backside onto it, it was as if Christie gave us all the middle finger."

The national media also called out Christie for staying on the shore where the rest of the state was kept away, especially after he said he had not gotten any sun while staying at the beach house — just hours after NJ.com had snapped its photos (but before they ran)

A story on CNN.com, a favorite target of Christie ally President Donald Trump, called out the governor's defense of his time on the beach.

"When shown the pictures, a Christie spokesman — in what will be fast-tracked into the spin Hall of Fame — responded: 'He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on,'" Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza wrote. "The 'hat' defense! Epic. Absolutely epic."

The National Review also noted that criticism of Christie comes at a time when some polls are putting his numbers dangerously close to single digits.

"Yep — especially considering how he’s handled getting caught," the column by Katherine Timpf, titled "Chris Christie is not good at this," said.

The Review also called out Christie's earlier statement, in which he offered an almost-apology for being the governor and having access to the beach when others were kept away. Christie said in a radio interview “Well, I’m sorry . . . they’re not the governor.”

"This is, of course, factually correct. People other than Chris Christie are indeed not the governor, but do you know who they are? They’re the taxpayers, as in, you know the people who have been spending their hard-earned money funding a beach that is supposed to be accessible to them," Timpf wrote.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney did not directly address the governor's stay at Island Beach State Park, but said his poll numbers and the fact that his term is coming to an end may have played a role on his decision making.

“He’s at 15 percent approval rating right now. When we met with him, when the leadership met with him from both sides, he says, ‘I’m at 15.’ He said, ‘I’m not that far from zero,’” Sweeney said.

The Internet has also had a field day with the pictures of Christie on the beach, leading to the creation of memes and Gifs that will last long past the end of the shutdown.

Many people have taken to posting similar images in response to a Tweet from the governor promoting the fact that while Island Beach State Park is closed, there is a lot more coastline for people to enjoy. Five hours after it was posted, the Tweet had more than 500 replies, with some defending the governor but most expressing their displeasure with the decision.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that a plane was flying along the Jersey Shore carrying the message that Christie should "get the hell off Island Beach State Park" — a reference to his infamous command, in the lead-up to superstorm Sandy, that people "get the hell off of the beach."

Photo by Beth Austin Menyhert
Photo by Beth Austin Menyhert

As Monday progressed,  there was some sense of optimism in the statehouse that a resolution could be reached in the budget impasse that shut down the New Jersey government, but until that becomes official the governor has given no indication that he will leave the shore early, and will continue to use a state helicopter to ferry himself between his family and the legislature.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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