Murphy rips into GOP ‘Matt Putz’ — says Rep. Gaetz unwelcome in NJ
"Putz" may be the new "knucklehead."
If there was any doubt, it wasn't a slip when Gov. Phil Murphy called Rep. Matt Gatz of Florida — a featured guest at what Jersey City officials say was a crowded indoor gathering of maskless New York Young Republicans in defiance of state coronavirus restrictions — "Matt Putz" Friday afternoon. Moments after Murphy said it during his routine coronavirus briefing, his Twitter account doubled down:
The gathering has drawn the ire of Jersey City's Democratic mayor and its chief prosecutor, who say they'll be charging organizers or participants they allege tried to skirt New York City's own coronavirus restrictions by crossing the Hudson River into New Jersey. The fundraiser, held Thursday night, was originally scheduled for the Caldwell Factory in the Chelsea section of Manhattan according to the New York Times. After more 65 people indicated on the group's Facebook page they would attend the fundraiser, the event was moved to a new location.
Jersey City chief prosecutor Jake Hudnut responded to to a tweet by attendee Joel Fischer, who taunted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to "come and get me." Fischer was pictured with Gatez — whom Murphy Friday described as "Sarah Palin's backup act" after the former vice presidential contender reportedly withdrew over concerns about traveling to the New York area in the pandemic.
"Pssst...you are in Jersey City - not New York. Gov. Cuomo may not be able to “come and get” you. But I can," Hudnut tweeted.
New York Young Republicans Club President Gavin Mario Wax tweeted Friday that the event was held "in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations."
"Any suggestion to the contrary and any legal threats are made in bad faith and politically motivated. As far as we are aware, the First Amendment has not been repealed," he wrote.
Murphy said Friday it was "beyond the pale that anyone would willingly endanger people in another state, let alone their own."
But he saved special criticism for Gaetz, who in March ridiculed fear over the coronavirus pandemic by wearing a gas mask for a House vote.
"What a fool," Murphy said.
And he continued: "You are not welcome in New Jersey, and frankly I don't want you ever back in this state."
Under Murphy's own executive orders, indoor gatherings are currently limited to 10 people, and all attendees must wear face coverings and stay six feet apart. The limit is relaxed to 150 people or 25 percent of a room's capacity, whichever is lower, for weddings, funerals or memorial services, as well as First Amendment-protected political activities
New Jersey also currently limits capacity for indoor dining, and requires businesses that serve food or drink to close their indoor facilities by 10 p.m.
Murphy drew criticism himself over the summer, when he participated in racial justice and Black Lives Matter protests in apparent violation of his own orders restricting outdoor gatherings at the time. The governor defended his participation in the events, noting they were held outdoors and saying most attendees were masked. Shortly after, his office issued clarified language loosening restrictions on political activities, which state officials say includes protests of the state's own coronavirus policies.
Shortly after Murphy's press conference ended, Gaetz tweeted in reply to the governor: "Thank you for calling me handsome, Governor!" — responding to Murphy's description of the Congressman as "That guy in the middle, the tall, handsome fella in the gray suit" when pointing to a group picture from the event.
"I’m only considered handsome in New Jersey, though. In Florida I’m barely a roundup 6," Gaetz wrote.
He also tweeted: "You’re gonna regret this tweet when you move to Florida like the rest of New Jersey."
— Includes previous reporting by Dan Alexander