The 360-page report released Thursday by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s legal team that examines the George Washington Bridge lane closures in Fort Lee, N.J. is getting backlash because of its depiction of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, as an overwhelmed, possibly scorned woman who was nonetheless so devious that she, alone, masterminded the scandal that has rocked the governor’s office.
It was during his marathon press conference to address charges that the bridge closings were politically motivated that Christie announced that he had fired Kelly, saying he had no idea someone who worked for him had been “so stupid and so deceitful.”
Kelly, has not responded to Christie’s initial claims, and has refused to cooperate with the investigation. She also has not responded to the report, whose description of Kelly’s actions seems to contradict much of what’s already on the public record about the divorced mother of four who sent the “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” e-mail on August 13.
The report, which attempts to explain the Fort Lee lane closures, delves into Kelly’s personal life, suggesting it might have affected her judgment. For instance, it notes that she had a personal relationship with Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, but that he dumped her.
From the report:
And when speculation of political retaliation surfaced as a reason for this lane realignment, Mayor Sokolich said he found it “incomprehensible that there’s any truth whatsoever to these rumors.” Something happened to change this dynamic dramatically, however, in August 2013. By that time, Kelly had become Deputy Chief of Staff, assuming the post left vacant by her predecessor, Stepien, who had departed in April 2013 to run the Governor’s re-election campaign. Because Stepien was her “benefactor,” Kelly relied heavily on him during this transition. And at some point after Stepien’s departure to run the campaign, Kelly and Stepien became personally involved, although, by early August 2013, their personal relationship had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s choice, and they largely stopped speaking.
Reaction from the news media has been stinging.
The Daily Beast called it “The Slut-Shaming of Bridget Anne Kelly”
The Raw Story put it this way in a headline: “Slut-shaming Bridget Kelly: How she ranks among history’s greatest political sluts”
And The New York Times reports that Kelly’s friends think the report is sexist and off-base.
This from twitter:
Kevin Marino, Stepien’s lawyer, has said that the report exculpates his client and that the personal details amount to “gratuitous presence dropped into the middle of this report can only be done for purpose of creating an alternative headline.”
New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) said she was angered by the personal revelations in the report.
“I am the last person to be an apologist for Bridget Kelly, but it was gratuitous, it was sexist, it was inappropriate,” she said in a telephone interview. “They seem to want to suggest that if you were scorned by your partner, that of course the next logical thing is that you go out and close a bridge.”
Randy Mastro, a lead lawyer on the report, said in a press conference that the personal details about the relationship were included to explain the lack of communication between Stepien and Kelly, and in an interview with the Daily Beast said that the notion that the report set out to humiliate Kelly in a sexist way “is wholly unfounded.”
UPDATE: At a Friday press conference, Christie responded to a question about whether the report was “fair” to his former staffer. He said that the report laid out the facts as investigators found them and “how anyone wants to interpret those it’s up to your interpretation.” Another journalist asked why the report didn’t comment on the emotional side of the men in the same way it detailed Kelly’s state of mind, and Christie said that the he assumes that the investigators didn’t have documents or testimony that gave a window in the emotional side of the others in the report.
UPDATE: Kelly’s defense lawyer, Michael Critchley, provided a statement to the Star-Ledger, Friday night, writing that his client “worked tirelessly to pursue the goals of the Office during her tenure” and he criticized the tone of the report:
“The report’s venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly have no place in what is alleged to be a professional and independent report.”