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Christie Defends Rutgers President

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Gov. Chris Christie is standing by Rutgers University President Robert Barchi as he faces a growing chorus calling for his dismissal

"He should have viewed the videotape,” Christie said today upon returning from vacation in Jamaica. “But I don't believe that not looking at the video tape is a fire able offense."

The Rutgers president has admitted he didn’t initially watch a videotape of basketball coach Mike Rice that shows him kicking, shoving, throwing balls and yelling homophobic slurs at his players. 

Barchi faced a hostile crowd  of students, faculty and administrators in Newark Monday over plans to reorganize the school, as well as his handling of the basketball scandal that’s already cost three athletic department officials their jobs.

“If there was anything in my time that I could have done over it would have been to see that video,” Barchi said. He watched the tape after it became public last week.  

Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, a Rutgers board member and lawyers for the school saw the video as early as November – and that’s what Christie objects to.

"I don't care about the legalities and the niceties," Christie told reporters. "I don't even know why they got outside counsel to look at this. Fire him and let him sue you but get him away from the student athletes and let the courts decide."  

Christie says he's also concerned that Rice's alleged behavior was permitted to continue for three years. Rutgers is doing its own internal probe and the state legislature may also weigh in.

Last week Pernetti fired Rice and then resigned. But Christie says he doesn’t have a problem with the University's decision to honor the contracts with Rice and Pernetti, which call for both men to receive more than $1 million dollars each in severance pay.

Barchi was already facing heat for a controversial reorganization of the Rutgers system. He was hired after the plan was approved by the governor and state legislature.

The Rutgers president told the angry crowd in Newark that criticism over reports he plans to move graduate programs from Newark to Rutger’s New Brunswick were unfounded. Instead, he said the school’s restructuring process was only just beginning and that the input from the Rutger’s community would guide whatever happened.