Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Gov. Chris Christie is standing by his Port Authority Chair, David Samson—"strongly, firmly," as Christie put it in an interview Thursday evening. Christie joined with host Eric Scott on the monthly "Ask The Governor" radio show on NJ 101.5.
"And I disagree with Pat Foye," Christie added, referring to remarks earlier this week by Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye to the Daily News editorial board, where Foye questioned Samson's "moral authority" to lead the Port Authority.
Christie's remarks on Samson were his first since Jan. 9, when he defended Samson, whose name had popped up in the bridgegate emails as "retaliating" against Foye after Foye ordered the Fort Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge reopened.
"I sat and met for two hours yesterday with Mr. Samson—General Samson—and again, I'm confident that he had no knowledge of this, based upon our conversations and his review of his information," Christie said during his marathon press conference following the release of the Bridgegate emails. Governor Christie calls Samson "General" following a brief Samson stint as Attorney General under Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey.
Since that news conference—Christie's last public press conference—WNYC has reported on several potential conflicts of interest between Samson's official role as Port Authority chief and his private roles as Christie fundraiser and head of a prominent New Jersey law firm.
Christie downplayed Foye's comments as the latest salvo in a long-running feud between Foye and Samson. "They're just public now," Christie said. Asked if he'd discussed the issue with Samson, Christie responded "Sure. Many times." He added. "The latest incident is nothing new."
Indeed, emails released in the Bridgegate investigation show team Christie expressed deep disdain for Foye—from Samson on down. "Playing in traffic. Made a bad mistake," Samson said in an email to Vice Chair Scott Rechler after the lane closures became public. Samson was complaining to Rechler that he believed Foye had leaked emails to reporters.
“What a piece of excrement,” Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said of Foye after seeing his now famous email blowing the whistle on the bridge scheme.
“A piece of crap,” agreed David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who ordered the lane closures.
"Holy shit, who does he think he is, Capt. America?" former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien wrote after seeing Foye's email halting the closures.
"Bad guy," Wildstein responded. "Welcome to our world."
"With some of these disputes," Christie said Thursday night on 101.5, "Governor Cuomo and I have to resolve them. And we do because Andrew Cuomo and I have a great relationship and have worked extra well over the last three years. And that will continue as long as I'm governor and he's governor. But it's a dysfunctional agency, as I've said before."
On Thursday, when asked if Samson should resign—as several newspaper editorial boards have recommended—Cuomo told WNYC, "I don't know. I don't have an opinion on that."