Politics

01.10.14

Up to Speed on Bridgegate

Wait, what’s happening in New Jersey? Here’s an explainer on the scandal that’s threatening the political ambitions of Gov. Chris Christie.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave a marathon press conference Thursday, vehemently denying that he had anything to do with what has now been dubbed Bridgegate. If you’ve managed to sit out this controversy until now, it’s about time you got up to speed. 

What is Bridgegate? 

Bridgegate is the word used to describe the scandal surrounding recently released emails regarding a plot to torment Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who endorsed Christie’s 2013 gubernatorial opponent. Emails sent by members of Christie’s senior staff, including his deputy chief of staff, suggest that Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials were ordered to close two lanes on the George Washington bridge in early September with the intention of deliberately causing a major traffic jam for Fort Lee, which it did. 

What did Christie Know?

The governor has denied any involvement in the orchestrated traffic jam since rumors first surfaced back in September. He maintained that stance during a two-hour press conference Thursday, in which he addressed the release of the emails. Christie apologized to the people of Fort Lee who were affected by the closed lanes, saying, “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.”

Who’s in Trouble? 

If Christie won’t take the blame for Bridgegate, someone has to. The governor announced at the press conference that Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly was terminated immediately after the emails were released for lying to him about her involvement in the bridge lanes closing. 

Former campaign manager Bill Stepien is also in trouble. Christie said Thursday that he was “disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was displayed in the emails” by Stepien. “And after reading that, it made me lose my confidence in Bill’s judgment.” Stepien was knocked from his post as a consultant to the Republican Governors Association, of which Christie is the chairman, and as the head of the New Jersey State GOP Committee. 

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On Thursday, Governor Chris Christie apologized for 'Bridgegate' and announced the firing of a senior aide.

Who Was Hurt by the Scheme?

The traffic jam didn’t just cause major delays, it prevented emergency vehicles from responding to calls in a timely fashion. On the first day the lanes were closed, paramedics and police cars were delayed in four instances: a man with chest pains, a missing 4-year-old, a car accident that injured four, and a 91-year-old unconscious woman who died from cardiac arrest once at the hospital. 

What’s the Fallout for Christie?

This is hardly a local story. Christie is not only the governor of New Jersey and the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, his name has been floated since 2012 as a favorite for the 2016 presidential election. For now, those chances don’t seem destroyed. He managed to present himself as “heartbroken” and “humiliated” at Thursday’s press conference and, as long as nothing new comes to light revealing that he’s been lying through his teeth, he looks poised to come out of this thing relatively unscathed.