WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Christie Comment Alienates Host
Pastor Wants Apology for Oliver Remarks
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The African American pastor who hosted Governor Chris Christie's town hall this week has asked the Governor to apologize for his comments about Democratic Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver.
At a town hall on Tuesday, Christie blasted Oliver (D-Essex) for not advancing his bill for school vouchers, which Christie says will provide an alternative to the state's students who are "trapped" in failing urban schools.
But when Christie only identified Speaker Oliver as an African-American and a woman, and not by her name, he was disrespectful, according to St Luke's Pastor Kenneth Clayton, who invited Christie to his church.
"Prior to his discussion of Speaker Oliver, he talked about Senator Sweeney, who is her counterpart in the Senate, called him by name and made reference to their relationship, their own going work toward unity," Clayton said. "But when he spoke about Speaker Oliver he did not identify her by name, which is a lack of regard and respect."
In response, Governor Christie's press office sent a 2010 quote from Reverend Reginald Jackson, who was at the time the head of the state's Black Minister's Council.
“The fate of this bill is in the hands of the Democratic majority in the New Jersey Legislature, especially Speaker Sheila Oliver,” Jackson said. “African Americans are the most loyal base of the Democratic Party and our children are the ones primarily trapped in failing schools. The Democratic Party must stop taking us for granted and failing to act for our children."
Speaker Oliver has said she was "appalled" by Christie's remarks.
"I have never, nor will I ever, reference the Governor's ethnicity, or make a veiled reference to the color of his skin, yet that's exactly what Gov. Christie did when discussing me, as if it was the 19th century," Oliver said in a written statement.
Oliver also said she was open to negotiations on Christie's voucher proposal, but added that if she was the only person standing in the way, then the governor should send his bill through the Senate and see if he has any more success.
Christie's current proposal call for $2 million dollars to be targeted as scholarship for students currently enrolled in failing urban public schools.
Christie's Paterson town hall was the second one of the 102 total hosted by an inner city African American church. Throughout his tenure Christie has tried to align his push for inner city public education reform with Democratic Mayor Cory Booker as well as President Barack Obama.
Pastor Clayton did not take issue with Christie's critique of public schools in the state's inner city, he said, but he found it ironic that Trenton has actually been in charge of the Paterson public schools since the state takeover 21 years ago.
Clayton was disappointed that an opportunity for unity was lost by his offensive remarks, he said.