It was a peaceful, Fourth of July weekend when Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) chose to relax with his family at a state-owned beach house. It was so peaceful, in fact, that the portion of the state beach where he sunbathed was otherwise empty. That’s because the beach, along with all other state beaches, was closed to the public amid a statewide government shutdown.
A news photographer captured aerial photos of Christie lounging on a beach chair, wearing shorts and a baseball cap, looking up toward the sun. The photos elicited outrage from New Jersey residents who slammed the governor for enjoying the beach while the rest of the state’s taxpayers couldn’t. The beach visit became the subject of countless memes, and was soon dubbed “Beachgate.”
Christie is now on his way out of office, soon to be replaced by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy (D). But “Beachgate” is still coming back to torment the governor.
At a gala in Glen Ridge, N.J., on Thursday night, Murphy was photographed posing next to a cardboard cutout of Christie on his infamous beach trip. Before and after Murphy gave a speech at the gala, hosted by the left-leaning New Jersey Working Families Alliance, he bent down and smiled for a photo with the life-size cutout, according to NorthJersey.com.
“I think someone’s got to remind him that the campaign is over,” Christie said Friday night, NorthJersey.com reported. “It’s disappointing because we’ve been so open and so welcoming to him, and not playing politics at all.”
Murphy campaigned on a promise to end the divisive style of politics he said Christie evoked in his leadership, according to NorthJersey.com. “You helped send a message that we are united,” Murphy told supporters in an email after he defeated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) in November.
“I just think it sends a really terrible message to people about, if you say you want to bring people together and do all the rest of that, then what you should want to do is focus on the future and not be looking at the past,” Christie said.
But Murphy said he just couldn’t help it.
“It was right in front of me!” Murphy told NJ Advance Media during a diplomatic trip to Puerto Rico on Friday. “I was standing near the cutout,” he added, laughing. “I couldn’t resist.”
The spat between the two came in the midst of a transition that began peacefully but recently turned rocky. Two weeks ago, Murphy sent Christie a private letter telling him he is concerned about a potentially huge budget gap. Christie responded to the letter, obtained by Politico, with a harshly worded letter of his own.
Murphy’s photo op drew criticism from other New Jersey residents and Republicans.
Carl Golden, a former press secretary for former New Jersey governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, both Republicans, told NJ Advance Media the joke was a “remarkable lapse in judgement.”
“What went through his mind that he thought this was a good idea to do this?” Golden asked. He said the photo did “absolutely nothing” to get past the tough transition period between a governor and successor of different parties.
“That I just think is pretty tacky,” Golden said.
Jeff Deminski, a talk radio host for New Jersey 101.5 wrote a column calling the move “unnecessary, childish mockery from a governor-elect who told us the days of a leader being a bully were over.”
“Really Phil?” Deminski wrote. “You haven’t even taken office and you already showed your lack of character. Instead of ridiculing an outgoing governor perhaps he should be working on ways to actually make all his progressive promises a reality.”
Others on Twitter were less bothered by the photo op.
“It’s funny! Lighten up!” one Twitter user posted. “He deserves it. He brought it on himself!!”
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