TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – With a new poll showing voters are disgusted and outraged that Gov. Chris Christie sunned himself on a closed beach during a government shutdown last week, the term-limited governor auditioned for a sports talk radio job on Monday, brashly fighting back against angry callers.
Christie, a Republican, began co-hosting the afternoon show on New York’s WFAN shortly after the first poll released since Beachgate showed his approval rating holding steady at a dismal 15 percent, an all-time low. Eighty percent of respondents disapproved, the Monmouth University poll showed.
Christie brushed aside any potential concern about flagging public opinion.
“The later you get in your term the less you care,” he said on the air. “You’re not running for re-election.”
The New Jersey governor, a big New York Mets fan, revealed that he had donned a Mets T-shirt, shorts and hat the day an NJ.com photographer in an airplane snapped pictures of him lounging in a beach chair at Island Beach State Park, which was off-limits to the public.
New Jersey doesn’t have its own Major League Baseball team, and fans in the state split their loyalties mostly among the Mets, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Christie, who’s also a Dallas Cowboys fan, is filling in for host Mike Francesa on WFAN on Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. The station said the appearances are an audition as it seeks a replacement for Francesa, who’s departing.
Christie frequently serves as a fill-in host on the station, tangling with callers over sports and politics. About an hour into Monday’s four-hour show, two men from a largely liberal New Jersey town that voted against Christie twice called in between conversations about his fantasy baseball team and the New York Knicks.
One told Christie he had done a “horrible job” and asked what he thought of the job being done by President Donald Trump, a longtime friend whom Christie endorsed after ending his own presidential campaign.
“I’m enormously relieved we don’t have a criminal in the White House like Hillary Clinton,” Christie said.
Another caller referred to Christie, who’s portly, as a “fat ass” and said he should have driven to another beach.
“I’m not the one who came on the air and swore on the air,” Christie said. “You’re a bum.”
Christie’s co-host for the day defended the caller’s right to use the vulgar phrase on the air.
In the Monmouth poll, released Monday, 800 people were asked for the first word that came to mind to describe how they felt about Christie in the beach photos. Most said “disgusted” and “angry, outraged.” Tied for the next biggest share was “jerk, profanity used.”
Eighty-six percent of the respondents in the Monmouth poll said they saw the July 2 photos of Christie with his family on the closed beach.
Christie later told reporters at a news conference that he hadn’t gotten any sun that day. Christie’s spokesman, when told of the photos, told NJ.com that the governor was telling the truth because he was wearing a baseball hat.
While the budget impasse that led to the government shutdown was caused by a dispute between Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature, it was the beach photos that made the most news, leading to headlines around the world and memes across the internet.
Christie refused to apologize for it and said he doesn’t care about “political optics.”
This week’s news won’t be much better for Christie.
Christie ally David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty to masterminding lane closures at the George Washington Bridge to create traffic jams as punishment for a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t endorse Christie, is set to be sentenced Wednesday. And the Senate is holding a hearing the same day on Trump’s FBI pick, Christopher Wray, who represented Christie during the bridge investigation.
Christie denied any prior knowledge of the bridge scheme and was never charged. His former deputy chief of staff and one of his appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were convicted.
Contact Catalini at https://www.twitter.com/mikecatalini
This story has been corrected to show the talk show host’s surname is Francesa, not Francesca.