3 Stages of Chris Christie's Crisis Management

Gov. Chris Christie at a Statehouse press conference

As the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal unfolded over the last six weeks, Gov. Christie's reaction went from sarcasm to contrition to outrage. Here's a look at the evolution.

Sarcasm on Dec. 2: At an unrelated news conference, I asked Gov. Christie about the controversy involving the closing of local lanes to the George Washington Bridge. The Fort Lee mayor had suggested it was done as political retribution. Christie's reaction, which brought laughs from his assembled staff, was dismissive: "I worked the cones, actually. Unbeknownst to everybody I was actually the guy out there, in overalls and a hat. You cannot be serious with that question, Matt!"

Contrition on Dec. 13: Days after Port Authority officials testified that the lane closures may have broken federal law, Christie called a news conference to announce that a second of his appointees, Bill Baroni, would resign. He took questions for more than an hour. He never raised his voice to a reporter. He answered four questions from this reporter alone. "Mistakes were made," he said, adding that he was "responsible" for everything that happens in his administration. His senior staff and campaign team had promised him that they weren't involved in any political retaliation at the bridge, but he said Baroni was leaving because he had become a "distraction." The matter was over, he declared. 

Outrage on Jan. 8: Subpoenaed correspondence reveals that, contrary to his previous statement, at least one member of his senior staff may have delivered the orders to close the lanes. Other close aides, including his two-time campaign manager and chief spokesman, were involved in the matter thereafter. This time, though, Christie doesn't talk to the press. He cancels a public appearance, waits until 4:30 pm, and releases this terse statement: “What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”