It was Friday morning, May 24, 2013, in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and the boardwalk was slick with rain. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, star of MTV’s Jersey Shore, approached the governor, Chris Christie.
“I just wanted to meet you and just hope you start to like us,” she said, nervously clutching her leopard print purse and looking up at Christie, who was, pre-weight loss, twice her size.
“Well, we’ll do our best,” Christie answered.
The governor looked amused when he encountered Snooki, who is 4’8” and known for her tan and big hair. He smirked and laughed, aware of the cameras documenting their historic meeting. He jokingly leaned in close to Snooki as he needled her for not being from the Garden State, and she dramatically pulled back, a smile on her face.
Christie had long bemoaned the rise of the MTV reality show, which depicted New Jersey as little more than a frat house with an ocean view, full of too-tan, too-drunk, too-loud, too-stupid twentysomethings with no direction other than to the club.
In 2011, he vetoed a $420,000 tax break the reality show had been awarded in 2009 as part of a multimillion-dollar program designed to lure TV production to the state, saying that Snooki and her cohorts “perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.”
That same year, during a radio appearance, he said, “these Jersey Shore folks, they’re from New York. They parachute these New Yorkers into Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and they try to make the whole country think this is New Jersey. It’s not. It’s bad for New Jersey. It’s bad because it’s a mischaracterization of who the people are here in New Jersey, and so I’ve said all along that I think Jersey Shore is bad.”Another Jersey Shore star, JWoww, who is from New York, branded Christie “retarded.”
When Christie started losing weight with the help of surgery, Snooki offered some encouragement and said she would be willing to help him work out.
Jersey Shore was like a National Geographic documentary that explored the peculiar mating rituals of some faraway tribe. Viewers couldn’t stop hate-watching, and by assuming the role of its biggest hater, Christie received the dual benefit of uncritical press whenever he talked about it and a chorus of people nodding along with what he had to say.
But on that fateful spring morning he found himself on the boardwalk with the cast, to film segments for NBC’s Today show about the shore’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
The recovery had resulted in, yes, boardwalks and beaches being rebuilt, but more importantly, in career-high poll numbers for Christie, who was on his way to a landslide reelection in November. This was before Bridgegate, before the half a dozen investigations into his administration, before the presidential campaign was announced to little fanfare from the sweaty high school gym that Christie attended. The encounter, as it appears on camera, showed Chris Christie, star governor, doing what he was, frankly, best at: hamming it up.
At least that’s the way it all looked back then.
In Snooki’s version of events, she was victimized by Christie—if only the cameras had documented it.
In Chapter 5, page 173 of her latest large-type literary achievement, Strong Is the New Sexy, Snooki describes what she remembers: After introducing herself and expressing her desire for the governor to like her, “he leaned in close and told me why he doesn’t. His expression was full of hate.”
Snooki said he was “obnoxious” and “a scary man.”
She went on, “He outweighs me by a thousand pounds, and he leaned really low and got in my face, trying to scare me. I didn’t back down, though. I said, ‘Why are you standing so close?’”
Snooki claims the cameras didn’t document the entire encounter. “I was definitely intimidated,” she wrote. “He was beyond rude. When the conversation ended, I walked away. My knees were shaking.”
She was saddened by the governor’s unwillingness to accept her, she said, and apparently a little confused by his record. “There’s nothing I could have said to Christie about my love of New Jersey or my commitment to gay rights and teachers’ rights that would have changed his opinion about me,” she wrote.
Christie vetoed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey, and once said the National Teachers’ Union “deserves a punch in the face.”
In a January 2014 installment of “Snooki Report,” Snooki told a similar tale about their boardwalk meeting.
“I had a little confrontation with Christie at a Jersey Shore Sandy relief fund,” she said, “and I went up to him and I was like, ‘Dude, why don’t you like us? Weren’t you 21 once, didn’t you party at the Jersey Shore? Just because ours was videotaped doesn’t mean we’re the assholes.’”
Snooki again claimed that “they didn’t show the whole video.” In the whole video, she said, “he was just saying, ‘You’re bad for Jersey. I don’t like you. Go back to New York. Blah blah blah,’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, relax. I’m just here trying to have a good time.’ He just doesn’t like me. He’s so mean.”
Snooki’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to multiple interview requests from The Daily Beast, and Christie’s campaign similarly ignored requests for comment. But the only video of their meeting was captured by The Asbury Park Press. It’s a 46-second clip, and it’s nothing like Snooki describes it. See for yourself: