3 Stages of Chris Christie's Crisis Management

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

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.”


Comments [25]

Newsericks from Wash. DC

You know the movie “Becket” based on Jean Anouihl’s play (Alfred Lord Tennyson, Paul Webb, and T.S. Elliot also wrote plays about the subject? There’s a very interesting parralel to Bridgegate. Too bad for Chris Christie that he didn’t follow King Henry II’s crisis management approach! (Read for more about that.)

Jan. 22 2014 09:10 PM
Jack from West Caldwell NJ

The "cones" quote in the text is a little different than what the audio gives.

What I hear is:

"I worked the cones, actually, uh, Matt. Unbeknownst to everybody I was actually the guy out there. I was in overalls and a hat, so I wasn't-- But I actually was the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious."

However, nowhere can I find Matt's exact question that provoked the "cones" comment. Please give a link to the audio of the question if possible. Thanks.

Jan. 13 2014 12:26 PM

Christie, however, promised to disclose any evidence “that come forward that requires action to be taken.”
He added, “I will take it, no matter how much it hurts me personally or dismays me, because this is the job I asked for, and I’ve got to do it.”

I wonder if that applies to the well documented rampant theft of Lost & Found property at the Port Authority Bus Terminal by Port Authority Supervisors, and the illegal written policy of throwing lost valid passorts in the garbage instead of mailing them to their respective embassies if their owners could not be located and reunited with their lost passports. Now just imagine the damage that a terrorist cell or and identity theft ring could do with those passports. 

If the Gov. is a man of his word, he can start by axing all the supervisors at the Port Auhority Bus Terminal involved in this criminal activity.

Jan. 10 2014 02:18 AM

I'm an ex-New Yorker, ex-New Englander, ex-East Coaster if you will. I moved to California mostly because of the climate, but my heart remains in the Northeast.

I think Gov. Christie is a dreadful specimen of humanity, totally lacking in class, a bully, etc., and doesn't deserve public office, much less to be considered as a Republican presidential candidate. I'm looking forward to the spectacle of Republican rats fleeing the USS Christie and to the amusement it will afford me.

Jan. 09 2014 11:02 PM
Geo from Westchester, NY

The governor of NJ says he had no knowledge of this traffic terrorism. I don't believe that for a second, based on his belligerent attitude towards respectful citizens who dared to question him in the past. He is a bully, pure and simple. Get ready to watch his supporters and contributors scurry away like something that is exposed to light under the sink. Come 2016, I doubt Springsteen will even return his phone calls.

Jan. 09 2014 07:04 PM
Chaz from Morristown

This is not really all that surprising. It's just a public showing of what his private thoughts on politics are - bullying is how to get things done.

It doesn't help that New Jersey has essentially no radio or TV news outlets. We have Philly news and we have NYC news, but very little local broadcast news. Yes, we have newspapers, but with dwindling staffs and a really low readership. My pet theory is that the lack of any real investigative journalism in this state has really helped the widespread corruption grow, especially at the local level where not even the Star Ledger can be bothered to dig up the simplest of dirty dealings.

Our public TV stations originate very little local content and no news. Our public radio stations are now simply repeaters for WNYC (and with pretty horrible coverage too - large swaths of the state can't receive these low-power stations). Christie was wise to sell NJPR to WNYC - less local eyes and ears means you can get away with more.

I do appreciate that WNYC has a few folks working on NJ news, but the airtime they get seems quite minimal until there's a giant news item.

Jan. 09 2014 03:20 PM

I dont linke Chris Chistie at all. But when was WNYC and other media as agressive to James Clapper when he lied about the NSA. How about priorities?

Jan. 09 2014 12:12 PM
stephen from manhattan

Not surprisingly, Mr. Christie pleads ignorance and shock. Perhaps that's truthiness, perhaps he's lying outright about his involvement. Probably we will never know. One thing we do know, however, is that he's a bully with little respect for anyone who questions or disagrees with him. It cannot be a shock to him that his arrogant 'my way or the highway' style has been adopted by his staff. Sure, he fires Ms. Kelly and admits he's ultimately the responsible party. That's easy. Words are cheap. Will he make any real changes in the way he and his administration operates? I doubt it.

Jan. 09 2014 12:11 PM
MC from Manhattan

Trouble in Jersey ... Stuff your administration with sycophants and mean spirited Republicans and this is the result ... do what Obama did, take inspiration from Lincoln and staff your self with the opposition if you are REALLY serious about being a Governor. Republicans need to learn to care about more than their own interests and group.
The measure of governance is not what you do to cover over your ineptness and inability to pick a team that will GOVERN properly instead of playing with people's lives, The measure of governance is the ability to be TRUSTED to weld power and delegate that power you are entrusted with. YOU FAILED Governor, and you can't be trusted to RUN THINGS PERIOD on a local , state and definately not NATIONAL level.

Isn't the " They are buono voters" comment similar to the Romney and crowd "47%" "us vs them" attitude that is way too common amongst REPUBLICANS? Let's start listing out all the examples of their willingness to be mean spirited, petty and vindictive towards their opposition, the poor, the other ...

Jan. 09 2014 12:07 PM
Mary from Booklyn

Says a lot about Christie that he hires the kind of people that would cook up this kind of scheme. He says it isn't his fault but he will take responsibility. He's just another politician.

Jan. 09 2014 12:07 PM
FMKennedy from Long Island

I read your article and I find it interesting the the Gov. Christie is retreating into a battle position. It is difficult to except the reasoning behind the behavior, other than CYA.

I do find the notion of intentionally shutting any lane down on one of the busiest conduits into, (or out of), the Greatest City in the World as being a hateful and cynical behavior that is hard to ignore.

However, what is missing in your article are the precise details of the "political retribution" that was the cause of this action. Frankly, until we know these details, your reporting is buried in speculation as to whom is truly responsible. This is not really helpful.

My question to you is this, do taxpayers have the duty and responsibility to understand who, what, where, and why this has happened? However,I admit that this may be regarded as "a tempest in a teacup." The question is this, should getting to the core of this misadventure be regarded as prudent and necessary? I believe that truly understanding to detailed intent lies a possible vindication of Gov. Christie, or an indication of even greater mishaps that could dominate his political future.

Most of us seek good and honest men and women to govern, but sadly, there are so many of the other ilk. Corrupted officials need to vetted out before the greater damage is done. (ie; Watergate, etc.) The vetting process is the job of the press. You are the watch dogs and the "king makers." It is only fair to apply diligence in order to discover the true nature of this debacle.

Jan. 09 2014 11:50 AM

He is "stunned" by this: "Shocked, shocked". Just threw the various participants under the bus. Reminds me of:

King Henry II: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

Jan. 09 2014 11:23 AM
Chris from Somewhere close by

This story has certainly evolved. He is one degree of separation from this scandal and it is not difficult to make the leap to pointing the finger at him. His leadership style does not leave room for insubordination and independent actors.

I suspect that Chris Christie will walk away from this, but his reputation will be scarred and this will likely cost him the shot at the presidency.

Jan. 09 2014 10:51 AM

I envision a great cartoon of Christie sitting and sulking off in the corner of a kindergarten classroom with a traffic cone on his head.

Jan. 09 2014 10:24 AM

I envision a great cartoon of Christie sitting and sulking off in the corner of a kindergarten classroom with a traffic cone on his head.

Jan. 09 2014 10:22 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

As this story unfolds, it sounds more and more like something that could happen in, maybe, Absurdistan, not in the US. However, since it did happen that public officials, whose salaries are paid with tax dollars, were responsible for this outrageous action, I submit that they should be terminated, their salaries, retroactive to the date of the lane closures, should be repaid to the government of New Jersey, and that they be tried and jailed for terrorism, abuse of public office, falsifying records and whatever other charges the NJ Attorney General can think of. And, perhaps, since it directly affected interstate travel and commerce, it may as well go to the US Attorney General (didn't Christie once work there?) for federal prosecution.

Jan. 09 2014 09:31 AM

Before we can predict where this goes, we need the complete, non-redacted exchanges.

If the Governor sent any text messages in the redacted portions or claims executive privilege regarding the content of the exchanges, then he's dead in the water.

Then, he will have lost the power to govern would be subject to recall. He is veering close to that already.

At the very least, other heads will roll. The question whose heads are next (other than Baroni, Wildstein, and Kelly). Another deputy who could be implicated is William Stepien, the former campaign manager who is slated to lead the NJ GOP.

Even if the Governors stays in office - and he will never be President, now, Thank God - there will be a cascade effect for the Bergen GOP and Republicans statewide. Hell, maybe this will hurt the Democrats who endorsed Christie as well.

Jan. 09 2014 09:26 AM
Lisa from Bernardsville, NJ

Michael from Brooklyn, a cylcing Rally is planned and coordianted as are all legitimate closures. Clearly anyone who doesn't think this is unacceptable behavior does not understand the implications of shutting off one of the nations busiest gateways.
"you cannot be serious with that question, Matt." is not "Regret" or apology from Christie.
I do not think intentionally causing a dangerous,costly,"incovience" to demonstrate your power is comparable to trying to provide people of the USA with affordable Health care! maybe if congress worked together (gasp!) the roll out would have been without problems.
the Press uncovering dishonesty, misuse of funds, resources, and power is not a "press creation".
Way to go Matt, thanks for the story.

Jan. 09 2014 09:25 AM
Paul from Jersey City

Chris Christie, Stronger than the storm?

Jan. 09 2014 09:23 AM
michael from brooklyn

Christie may have said that he is responsible for all that happens in is administration, but we all know that this is not so. An apology for the action of some on his staff is not enough !! President Obama doesn't get this kind of treatment for the infinitely worse performance of his staff in setting up the machinery for Obamacare. He expressed regret. OK. Not really HIS fault, and we know it.
Clearly the bridge closing "scandal" is largely a press creation. Workmen cause huge jams like this simply by carelessly or maliciously leaving equipment in a lane on a holiday like Thanksgiving last on the Whitestone , and NYC caused a preposterous jam by closing whole roads to accommodate a cycling rally on the highways. I heard nothing about that from the Times or any other media outlet.

Stop making a mountain out of near nothing.

Jan. 09 2014 08:56 AM

It's called abuse of power. You use it just to show those targeted that you can and will use it so you better beware.

Jan. 09 2014 08:42 AM
Hal Levine

despite the governor's response, this behavior IS representative of his administration

Jan. 09 2014 08:39 AM
opinon from Brooklyn

What I don't understand is how Christie's people expected this action (can we even call it a tactic?) would really hurt the Mayor of Fort Lee and not average citizen of sitting in 4 hours of traffic--or worse, missing meetings, even losing lives... Some of the people sitting in the traffic voted for Christie, no? Were they so simple-minded as to imagine, even for a minute that the people using the bridge were all the Mayor's supporters?

Jan. 09 2014 08:05 AM

This same type of Bridgegatesque crime, corruption, cover-up & retaliation is standard operating procedure at the Port Authority Bus Terminal's Lost & Found Dept. in NYC concerning lost & found property brazenly stolen by Port Authority Supervisors. Google  “Donna Lebourne abc news" & see the vile face of shame being confronted & exposed for the world to see.

Port Authority Supervisor Donna Lebourne also has an outside job, she is the Vice President of her & her husband’s charity Caribbean Sports International that donates cellphones & other electronics.  If you lost an item at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and did not get it back, contact her charity, perhaps she may donate your item back to you out of the kindness of her cold evil heart. It's very easy to be charitable when you are giving away someone else’s property.

Also, the Port Authority of NY & NJ has become a threat to national security and has placed everyone's safety & security in jeopardy, by employing an illegal policy of disposing lost valid passports in the garbage that are found in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Now just imagine the damage that a terrorist cell could do with those valid lost passports or an identity theft ring. Google "Port Authority - Passports."

Action must be taken against these corrupt incompetent criminals in the Port Authority before another terrorist attack takes place & more innocent lives are lost due to their utter disregard about our safety and security, not to mention their disgraceful feeling of self entitlement to patron's lost property found at the PABT. Google “found, stolen, trashed by PA.”

The culture of fear is alive and well at the Port, because crime, corruption, cover-ups & retaliation is the Port Authority way. Believe me, I know firsthand and I have the evidence to prove it.

General Manager of the George Washington Bridge Robert Durando’s testimony at the New Jersey State Assembly Transportation Committee on 12/9/13 exposes the culture of fear that exists at the Port Authority, he is fully aware of what happens to whistleblowers at the Port. Sadly, Durando and his boss Cedrick Fulton decided to put tens of thousands of lives in jeopardy just to save their own jobs. They are cowards, nothing more than highly paid puppets of the Port Authority.

Intentionally gridlocking traffic on 9/11 for the sake of a "traffic study," a day that terrorist use to cause mayhem is absolute insanity.

It’s time to stop the madness!

Jan. 08 2014 09:00 PM
Cheryl Squadrito

Nice story, Matt

Jan. 08 2014 08:20 PM

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