Chris Christie spokesman Brian Murray dismissed embarrassing photos of the New Jersey governor on a closed beach with his family as mere “optics” in a contentious interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur on Monday.
“It’s optics. It’s a photograph — or a couple of photographs that were taken — of a governor with his family on the beach. Not much of a scandal there when you consider 119 miles of coast are open, they’re packed with people,” Murray said. “We’re talking about two beaches that had to be closed, not because the governor closed them personally but because we don’t have a budget provided to us from the legislature for him to sign and he’s ready to sign.”
On Sunday night, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey posted aerial photos of Christie and his family on the beach at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. The beach was closed to the public because the governor ordered a government shutdown in New Jersey over a budget impasse. When asked if he had gotten any “sun” on Sunday by a Star-Ledger journalist, Christie said he had not. After being told of the photos, however, Murray told the New Jersey outlet, “Yes, the governor was on the beach briefly today talking to his wife and family before heading into the office. … He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on.”
Asked about his comments by Tur on Monday, Murray said Christie claimed to have not gotten any sun because he wasn’t questioned about being on the beach.
“Because they didn’t ask, ‘Are you on the beach?’ They asked, ‘Did you get some sun?’ He was on the beach for 45 minutes and back in Trenton that day. So, no he didn’t,” Murray said. When Tur pushed Murray to explain why he made the remark about Christie’s baseball hat, the spokesman replied, “That was not to you Katy, and it was not to anybody in the national media. It was one reporter who wrote the story for NJ.com. … Let me tell you, it was part of a total exchange where I was being smart-alecky with him and he was being smart-alecky with me. He put it in. The way it read, I believe on NJ.com, seemed to indicate it was light-hearted.”
Christie once enjoyed an approval rating over 60 percent. But now, in his final year as governor, that number has dropped to a historically low level of 15 percent. Tur brought up Christie’s poll numbers to Murray and noted that photos like the beach shots and the governor’s past comments about hoping to return to the private sector to earn some money “make it seem like he doesn’t really care about leading the state. He’d like to make some money for once. ‘Yeah, I’m at the governor’s mansion. Yeah, I’m going to the beach, I didn’t get any sun but I was wearing a hat.'”
Responded Murray, “But he is leading the state. And you have optics. You have photographs you’re using to simply base this opinion on. You’re using some photographs about a man on the beach with his family. That’s a scandal apparently. And by the way, that beach is closed 365 days a year. That particular segment of the beach is part of the governor’s residence. He was on the beach for 45 minutes, came back to work in Trenton.”
Tur closed her interview out with a simple question: “Did the governor get some sun that day?” she asked.
“What day?” replied Murray.
“Did the governor get some sun? I am going to allow you to answer that question again,” Tur said again.
“Yesterday? He was on the beach for 45 minutes, I will let you decide,” Murray answered.
But it was Tur who got the last word on that exchange: “Well he’s sitting in some sun. I’ll tell you that much.”