“I’ll never apologize for ‘sit down and shut up:’” Chris Christie speaks on civil political discourse
Managing News Editor
Nearly five years after the initial incident, former Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told an audience that he would never apologize for telling a protester to ‘sit down and shut up’ during an event marking the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
On Wednesday, during the fifth event of this year’s National Agenda series, Christie sat down with Communication professor Lindsay Hoffman to discuss the intricacies of civil yet open political discourse. In the midst of the opening of the Christie Institute of Public Policy at the Seton Hall University Law School, which focuses on nonpartisan conversation, Christie spoke on an incident that made headlines in 2014.
During an event that celebrated the re-opening of downtown stores in New Jersey, which had previously been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, a protester held a sign that blocked cameras and made several persistent comments that interrupted Christie’s speech. Christie responded to these comments several times and eventually engaged in a confrontation with the protester, which ended with him telling the protester to “sit down and shut up.”
“I’ll never apologize for ‘sit down and shut up,’ because I was there,” Christie said. “And I know I did the best I could three times with 500 people waiting to hear the speech and the owners of the stores waiting for me to cut the ribbons to their stores, which they had been waiting for two years. And this guy decided he was more important than those 500 people … so context is [key].”
However, despite this previous incident, Christie did admit that there have been times where his language may have come across the wrong way. He recalled a town hall meeting regarding a higher education merger between Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. During this event, a law student interrupted Christie’s speech multiple times.
“[The student] said, ‘I’m a law student, and I know my rights,’” Christie said. “And I said to him, ‘Well, let me tell you something: if you go to court and interrupt a judge the same way you’ve been interrupting me, he’s going to throw your rear end in jail for contempt.’ Now, if I left [it at] that, it would’ve been perfect.”
However, the time of this incident, Christie did not leave his comment “just at that” and added the comment “jerk” to the end of his statement. At the time, Christie did not know a critical piece of information about this law student.
“The law student is actually also a Navy SEAL,” Christie said. “So, the headline in the paper the next day was ‘Christie calls Navy SEAL a jerk.’ It was a mistake.”
Throughout the talk, Christie referred to his working relationship with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as a healthy example of how politicians can work together despite their differences. Similarly, although his political ideologies didn’t align with Christie’s, senior political science major Jagger McFarland did appreciate the former governor’s open communication.
“I think he’s working towards building bridges rather than tearing them down,” McFarland said. “And I think his relationship with Cuomo in the past is an example of how he can be bipartisan and work with others.”
McFarland took the opportunity during the event to ask Christie if he would ever run for the presidency again. Christie said that he would consider participating in the presidential race again if certain personal standards had been met.
“I’d have to have [my wife]’s support, I’d have to have my children’s support, I’d have to believe I can win, I’d have to think that the atmosphere was conducive to my style of leadership and I’d have to believe that I can honestly make a difference in the country,” Christie said. “That’s it. Those five. If I check those five boxes, I run. If I don’t check all five, I don’t run.”
During the event, Christie went on to talk about recent elections held in Virginia and Kentucky wherein Democrats had many wins. Virginian Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear held onto a 0.4% lead over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in a race for the Kentucky governorship.
When the former governor was asked if these wins were a reflection of the results of the 2020 elections, Christie disagreed, affirming that in his opinion, they were very localized races.
Christie went on to comment on political trends occuring in Virginia.
“I [actually think] Virginia is a blue state,” Christie said. “I think with the predominance of government workers, especially in the [northern part] of the state, you’ve seen consistently since President Obama won in 2008, that [it’s] been going more and more blue.”
Christie also touched upon Robert Mueller. In response to a question brought up by an audience member that implicated Mueller’s alleged declining mental health, Christie announced his respect for the former FBI director.
“I have enormous respect and affection for Robert Mueller,” Christie said. “When I was [a] U.S. attorney for seven years, he was the director of the FBI, and I worked with him on numerous occasions. Very important cases. He is an American patriot.”
Christie additionally commented on how these speculations are taken out of hand and can be further exacerbated by the media.
“He didn’t do a great job, it wasn’t his best day,” Christie said. “But we’re going to conclude from that, that he was in mental decline? Who’s the physician in this audience that diagnosed [Mueller]? Its outrageous.”
Christie also discussed the true nature of conservatism. During the conversation, an audience member mentioned a previous National Agenda guest, Tara Setmayer.
Setmayer, a former Republican Party communications director and self-identified “anti-Trumper,” identifies as a Republican. However, Christie maintains relations with President Donald Trump and simultaneously identifies as a conservative.
“So what I think conservatism is about, the same way what liberalism is about — is about ideas,” Christie said. “And that’s why I don’t think if you voted for Donald Trump, it doesn’t make you a real conservative. Or if you’re a never-Trumper, it doesn’t make you a real Republican. I think [it’s] you being loyal and true to your ideas.”