NJ Gov. Chris Christie closed state's beaches — and then went to the beach himself
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family on the closed New Jersey beach.
(NBC News) - After a government shutdown left the beaches of New Jersey closed during the Fourth of July weekend, thousands of locals had to find other ways to enjoy their long holiday break.
Except for one: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie and his family were spotted on Sunday lounging on the sand at Island Beach State Park — one of the numerous closed parks and beaches closed by the government shutdown.
In pictures published by NJ.com, the Christie family appeared to have the sun and the sand — which would normally be a packed with families enjoying the holiday weekend — all to themselves.
After being spotted on the beach on Sunday, Christie flew to Trenton to speak with reporters about the government shutdown.
The Christie family was using a state residence, which the governor mentioned he had been using for the weekend during the Sunday news conference.
"That's where my family is sleeping so that's where I'll sleep," Christie said during the news conference on Sunday. "When I have a choice between sleeping with my family or sleeping alone, I generally like to sleep where my family is."
During the news conference, a tanner-looking Christie was asked if he had gotten any sun, to which he responded he hadn’t.
Later on Sunday, when the photos surfaced, a spokesman for the governor reiterated this sentiment, saying Christie had not, in fact, gotten any sun — because he was wearing a hat while on the beach.
The photos show Christie was indeed wearing a hat.
"We have a residence in Princeton as well. And that place is a place where people can go and tour, but they can’t if the government is closed. Am I supposed to move out and stay in a hotel?'' Christie said Monday during a phone interview with Fox affiliate WTXF in Philadelphia.
In the shots of the governor enjoying the beach were taken by NJ Advanced Media photojournalist Andrew Mills, Christie is seen with his toes in the sand, lounging back in a beach chair with his wife Mary Pat.
Mills said the newspaper originally planned to book a plane in order to photograph reveling beachgoers baking in the sun and enjoying a weekend off along the Jersey Shore in juxtaposition with empty stretches of beach.
Once at the airport, Mills spotted the governor’s helicopter, and knew Christie was in the area, he said in an NJ.com article.
He decided to try the state residence where Christie could be staying and in a moment of unparalleled luck, he spotted the governor and his family and took the shot.
"I really wonder about journalists who spend money flying planes to look for people where they actually said they'd be," Christie told Fox's WNYW in New York.
Christie defended his use of the beach house, saying, “That's the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have the residence."
The governor reiterated the sentiment to WTXF, telling those critical of his use of the closed beach: "Well, I’m sorry ... they’re not the governor.''
The cause of the shutdown hinges on the state’s budget and legislation to overhaul the state's biggest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Christie placed the blame for the shutdown on the shoulders of Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. The speaker is blocking a vote on a bill restructuring Horizon because he believes it is a bad policy, according to NJ.com.
The bill has bipartisan support and was approved by the Senate, according to NJ.com.
Prieto, for his part, pushed back on Christie's claims. "The Assembly is the only one trying to pass a budget to get government going again,” he said. ”I will not be bullied into doing something that’s not good for the state of New Jersey," he told reporters after Christie's news conference, according to Politico.
Christie said he would call New Jersey lawmakers back to Trenton on Monday, which would be the third official day of the shutdown.
Christie said without the Horizon legislation, he would veto about $350 million of the Democratic priorities.
"It should end today. Send me a budget," he said. "I'm ready to work, but I can't work if I don't have any money. These guys have to get their act together."
Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, an ally of Christie, called for a meeting with lawmakers and Horizon's CEO to try to hash out a way forward. Horizon CEO Bob Marino will attend the meeting, but opposes the proposal, the company said.
Christie ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services, like parks and motor vehicle offices, on Friday after he and lawmakers failed to agree on terms of the state budget.
While New Jerseyans hoping to enjoy a traditional Independence Day weekend won’t be able to use the state's beaches and parks, several other Garden State institutions will remain open, including New Jersey Transit, state prisons, the state police, state hospitals and treatment centers as well as casinos, race tracks and the lottery.
Monday, August 21 2017 12:31 AM EDT2017-08-21 04:31:29 GMT
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