Gov. Chris Christie apologized to New Jersey residents Thursday, then announced that at least one person has been fired in connection with the lane-closure scandal that involved alleged political payback for the Fort Lee mayor not endorsing his re-election bid.
Christie said he was "embarrassed" by the revelations and that he did not know the true nature of the problem when he first addressed it a month ago.
He dismissed a reporter's question as to whether he would resign, calling it "crazy."
During a mid-day press conference in Trenton, Christie said Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to the governor, was immediately terminated after "she lied to me" about her role in closing the George Washington Bridge traffic lanes as political payback.
He also said he's pulling support for Bill Stepien as state Republican Party chairman and is withdrawing his consultancy from the Republican Governors Association.
Christie said he does not know if there are other related incidents but "I won't make a warranty on that, though."
Christie did not rule out additional firings and said he is asking, and investigating the behavior of other staffers to see if they were involved.
Christie, appearing contrite, said he plans to apologize to the Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich Thursday, and to the people of Fort Lee "personally." He said his staff was trying to set up such a meeting.
Messages released Wednesday show top officials close to Christie, including Kelly, were involved with the Fort Lee lane closures that appeared to be payback for the Fort Lee mayor not endorsing Christie's reelection bid.
The emails between high-level gubernatorial aides and Port Authority officials contradict previous statements by Christie, who said his staff and campaign had nothing to do with the closure of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge that caused a week worth of traffic jams for North Jersey residents.
Emails obtained by The New York Times and The Record show Kelly told a Port Authority official close to Christie that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” about two weeks before the lanes were closed.
“Got it,” replied the Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, who resigned last month as national media and incensed local politicians turned up the heat on the scandal.
During the press conference, Christie said he knew nothing of the incident until after it was over, and even then was told it was a traffic study. "And until yesterday, there was no evidence to the contrary," he said.
Christie said he was shocked "by the abject stupidity" in the emails. He's now asking himself: "What did I do wrong to make these folks think that it was okay to lie to me?"
"I'm sick over this," Christie said. "What I want the people of New Jersey to know is that this is the exception, not the rule" to his blunt, straightforward reputation.