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What Did Christie Apologize For?

Jim Burroway

February 1st, 2012

Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie really stepped in it when he announced that he would veto any legislation granting marriage equality that reaches his desk. The serious controversy arose when he added, about African-American’s civil rights, “The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.” Right. As if that would have worked out. As one of our commenters pointed out, when Alabamans had the opportunity to remove segregationist language from their state constitution, they rejected the idea. In 2004! The lunacy of Christie’s idea should be self-evident to anyone with a glancing familiarity with history.

Last night, Christie sought to put the controversy to bed during an appearance on talk radio with an apology that looks like this:

“Anybody who was offended by what I said, if you’re listening out there tonight, I apologize for that,” he said on New Jersey 101.5’s monthly radio call-in show. “I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and if I did I’m sorry.”

According to Politico, he explained:

“I also recognize that my job, one of my jobs as Governor, is to clearly communicate to people what I’m thinking, every time I open my mouth. And I try to be very good about being very direct about what I say so that there’s no ambiguity but obviously when I was talking last week at the town hall meeting about the civil rights movement in the South, I wasn’t clear enough. I just wasn’t.

“And what I did was, by saying those things, I left them open to misinterpretation and obviously there are some folks out there whose feelings I hurt or sensibilities I offended. And I apologize for that, because that’s my job. My job is to clearly communicate all the time. And so to those folks out there who were somehow offended or concerned about the ambiguity in my statement, I apologize for that because very clearly what I was trying to say, I said yesterday at the press conference about 5 or 6 times.”

I’ve read this several times, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what Christie’s actually apologizing for. Near as I can tell, he’s only apologizing if anyone who was offended. He apologized for being “misinterpreted” and for “sensibilities I offended.” It’s like he stomped on someone’s foot and apologized that they were hurt by it. What I don’t see is any sense that he recognizes the sheer folly of putting a reviled and stigmatized minority’s rights up for a vote and expecting that minority’s rights to be magnanimously granted. The history of that actually happening is sadly sparse, as sparse in the new millennium as it was in the last. I don’t see any recognition in Christie’s words that he understands that. It looks like, at most, he’s apologizing for opening his big mouth, but not for the beliefs that we now know he holds.



February 1st, 2012 | LINK

He’s just another one of those “socially progressive fiscally conservative” northeastern Republicans that we keep hearing so much about. Kind of like the socially progressive New England Republicans (like the ones in New Hampshire) that gay Republicans having dancing around in their imaginations like sugarplum fairies.

Timothy Kincaid
February 1st, 2012 | LINK

I think you pegged what he believes: that it would have been much better for the good people of Alabama to vote in civil equality. Sure. It would have. And then we could all join hands and sing Kumbaya as we burned the last KKK robes.

But like you noted, that wasn’t exactly very likely.

However,it does raise what I have suspected for a while. I think Christie believes that a New Jersey vote would approve marriage. If you take that assumption, what he says makes more sense.

And it is true that if the electorate voted in equality then it would be more easily accepted by those who officially disapprove but don’t much care. Which doesn’t make voting on civil rights appropriate.

February 1st, 2012 | LINK

Sounds like a sort of non-apology “apology” my ex-wife was famous for. Oh sure, I did wrong because you were offended…but MY actions weren’t wrong. That’s the vibe I get out of what he said. Funny how the same kind of people harp on how people shouldn’t be offended (unless of course it’s religious indignation, which usually seems to go their way, in their minds.)


February 1st, 2012 | LINK

And if New Jersey rejects gay marriage, he’s got a nifty populist reason to veto any future bills with the usual tune “the people have decided!” that he can campaign on, which won’t be a good turn of events for gay advocates as they’ll antagonize by being painted as trying to circumvent the voters.

It’s a rather smart move for a Republican, because when he does launch a campaign for presidency as Mitt Romney 2.0, he will deflect attacks during primaries with “It wasn’t me who approved same-sex marriage; the people called for it and my job demanded I listen to them.”

A coward’s approach. He’s all about pantomime ferocity and conviction as long as it gets him votes from his base.

Priya Lynn
February 1st, 2012 | LINK

Jim said “I’ve read this several times, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what Christie’s actually apologizing for”.

What I got from it was that he’s saying is he didn’t communicate clearly and he apologizes for not communicating clearly. In other words he didn’t say anything wrong, he was misunderstood and he apologizes for allowing that to happen.

Eric in Oakland
February 1st, 2012 | LINK

” And I apologize for that, because that’s my job. My job is to clearly communicate all the time”

Well, I guess he is still not doing his job well. I have no idea what he was trying to communicate then or now. Wouldn’t this have been an ideal time to clarify his previous comment which he admits was not clearly communicated?

Eric in Oakland
February 1st, 2012 | LINK

Timothy said: “However,it does raise what I have suspected for a while. I think Christie believes that a New Jersey vote would approve marriage. If you take that assumption, what he says makes more sense.”

That would appear to be a very naive view for Mr. Christie to hold. He doesn’t strike me as naive.

Regan DuCasse
February 1st, 2012 | LINK

He’s vowing to veto a bill passed by the legislature, who ARE representing their people, right?
Certainly was true here when the CA legislature voted to pass marriage EQ, and did so twice.
And Gov. Arnold Schwartzeneggar vetoed it twice.

Christie doesn’t support marriage equality, I’m sure he’s COUNTING on the popular vote to ban it. Kinda contradicts that he believes it won’t be banned, don’t cha think?

February 1st, 2012 | LINK

Don’t compare Schwarzenegger to Christie. Had he signed gay marriage legislation it would’ve been overturned in court since Prop. 22 banned it. He simply did it to avoid legal wrangling.

Timothy Kincaid
February 1st, 2012 | LINK


It may not be an accurate assessment, but considering that the polls show that New Jersey residents support marriage equality by about 55% to 40% it certainly isn’t naive to assume that the voters would approve such an initiative.

Timothy Kincaid
February 1st, 2012 | LINK


Schwarzenegger vetoed the marriage bills because they contradicted an initiative and could not do so. When the court found that the marriage ban was unconstitutional, they specifically stated that the legislature could not reverse a vote of the people and that Schwarzenegger was correct.

He opposed Proposition 8.

February 1st, 2012 | LINK

The latest poll I saw was more like 49% for and 47% against. Hardly numbers that would make Christie feel would pass by a vote of the people.

I think you give Christie too much credit.

I think he DOES support marriage equality but, like the president, he’s a politician first and a defender freedom, liberty, equality and the constitution second.

Timothy Kincaid
February 1st, 2012 | LINK

Zeke, maybe. It’s all a bit of a guess at this point.

February 1st, 2012 | LINK

Christie’s comments have added one important bit to the discussion.
As a Republican Governor (and presumably state party spokesperson) he has explicitly framed marriage equality as a civil rights issue. NOM, FRC and others must be miserable as they realize that Christie has, in a couple of comments, shot huge holes in years of “but it’s not anything like civil rights” arguments.
Maybe this is his stealth contribution to marriage equality?

Graham Shevlin
February 2nd, 2012 | LINK

So let me see if I get this right…he started out by being a bloviating idiot, and now he is merely a sort-of-apologetic bloviating idiot?

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