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Katz on Christie

A regular blog that keeps tabs on the activities and fortunes of our renowned Governor, Chris Christie.
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Correcting Christie: 10 Times Christie Didn't Tell the Full Truth on the Campaign Trail

Matt Katz | December 9, 2015

Chris Christie, governor and presidential candidate, speaks all the time. Mostly, he speaks without notes. Sometimes, he gets his facts wrong. Often, these statements are in service of larger political points. This is the first Christie Tracker installment listing the times when Christie failed to tell the full truth on the campaign trail.

1) "We have eliminated Common Core in New Jersey." Town Hall, Mason City, IA, December 5, 2015 

Christie, who once supported the educational standards known as Common Core, changed his position in May in the lead-up to a presidential candidacy. Common Core is unpopular among conservatives. But contrary to Christie's claim, the standards are still in full effect in New Jersey until at least next year, according to his education commissioner. Christie didn't "kill" Common Core in New Jersey -- all he did was order a review of the standards by a 94-person committee, which has so far conducted a sparsely-attended listening tour around the state. Education Commissioner David Hespe said the result of the review will be a "renovation" of the standards, "not a tear down." ​

2) "We have doubled the amount of Latino employment in the state government since I've been governor." Latino Coalition meeting, Washington DC, June 10, 2015

​In fact, the number of Hispanic workers in state agencies increased by about 4 percent, from 5,717 to 5,972, according to​ numbers from the state Civil Service Commission​ first cited by NJ.com. A Christie spokesman said the appointment of Latinos as judges had doubled.

3) "You need to clean out your ears young lady. I never said that humans contribute to climate change by breathing. Ridiculous statement. I never said that." Town Hall meeting, Laconia, NH, August 29, 2015

On August 4, Christie said this at a campaign event in Manchester, NH: "The climate's been changing forever, and it will always continue to change. Does human activity contribute to it? Of course it does. We all contribute to it in one way or the other. By breathing we contribute to it." Fewer than four weeks later Christie was at a town hall meeting in Laconia, NH, when a woman from a local environmental group asked Christie about that statement. "Give me my microphone back," Christie said, as a he repeatedly denied making the comment about breathing. Christie's comments were turned into a video by the environmental group that has more than 200,000 views.

4) "I defunded Planned Parenthood in New Jersey six years ago, in my first year as governor, and they've gotten no funding in the state since then. And I've vetoed bills eight different bills to attempt to override that defunding of Planned Parenthood. And here's why: I cannot support an organization with taxpayer money that has engaged in the systematic murder of children in the womb in a matter in which it allows them to maximize the value of certain body parts for sale on the open market after the child is murdered." Town Hall meeting, Plymouth, NH, November 7, 2015 

If the "systematic murder of children" is the reason why Christie defunded Planned Parenthood, that's not the reason he had repeatedly cited -- in both veto messages and press conferences. Until four months before declaring his candidacy, the pro-life governor cited fiscal reasons and a redundancy in services for vetoing $7.5 million in annual funding for non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. As recently as July, he acknowledged that abortion wasn't the reason he ended the earmarks: "When I first defunded it, I defunded it because we were double-spending. We were spending money on other stuff and I didn't want to double spend that money."

5) "[President Obama] called Assad a reformer." Fox News' "Center Seat," September 10, 2015

Addressing a question about the Syrian civil war, Christie claimed that President Obama described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer." He also said that Hillary Clinton had made the same comment. In fact, it was just Clinton who used the word -- and even then, the statement is taken out of context. In 2011, speaking about the Arab Spring, Clinton said this on "Face The Nation" about Assad: "Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer."

6) New Jersey's nine credit downgrades "are all about long-term pension problems...this is not about not having enough revenue." NBC's Meet the Press, September 13, 2015  

Yes, in downgrading New Jersey's credit rating nine times, rating agencies have cited a shortfall in the public employee pension fund. Christie and Democrats have been at a stalemate on that issue for a year, with Christie saying the state doesn't have enough money to make full pension contributions. But beyond that, the agencies blame revenue problems in Christie's budgets for the downgrades, like an overreliance on one-time infusions of cash, underfunded surpluses and excessively optimistic revenue forecasts, which have forced last-minute spending cuts. 

Christie's spokesman countered that the credit agencies highlighted the long-term pension problems as the single biggest issue -- and that the governor's most recent budgets have rectified the other budgetary issues. 

7) "Three investigations – an internal investigation, an investigation by a very partisan Democratic legislature and an independent investigation by the United States attorney -- all came to the same conclusion, that I had nothing to do with this." Campaigning for a gubernatorial candidate in Mississippi, May 5, 2015

Christie's own internal investigation into Bridgegate concluded that Christie "had nothing to do with this." But US Attorney Paul Fishman has pointedly refused to publicly exonerate Christie nor declare that investigation is over. The US Attorney's investigation also contradicts Christie's internal investigation, the so-called Mastro Report, in two significant ways. First, Fishman ascribed a motive, that the lane closures were intended to punish a mayor for not endorsing Christie's reelection, while the Mastro Report found no evidence of that. Second, the Mastro Report only found two people culpable -- Port Authority official David Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, the former Christie deputy chief of staff. Fishman indicted a third person -- Bill Baroni, the highest-ranking staff appointee at the Port Authority and a former top Christie ally.

A Christie spokesman, Kevin Roberts, noted that none of the three investigations have come forward with any evidence of the governor's involvement or culpability. He said the federal investigators reached more specific conclusions because several witnesses refused to interview with Christie lawyers.

8) ​“We balanced an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget by cutting over 800 programs in the state budget.” GOP presidential debate, August 6, 2015

Christie did not cut 800 programs to shave $11 billion off a $29 billion budget. He's conflating different stats. The $29 billion figure refers to annual state spending, which was affected by his programmatic cuts but has nonetheless grown under Christie to $33 billion. As for the $11 billion "deficit" -- this is actually a "structural budget deficit," the gap between what lawmakers would ideally spend each year and the money that's actually coming in. This gap always exists, and has gone down since he got into office by just 5 percent -- to $10.2 billion.   

9) "Social Security is going to be insolvent in seven to eight years." Republican Debate, October 28, 2015, Boulder, CO

Christie has made reforming Social Security with phased-in cuts a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and he frames it as the biggest domestic problem the country faces. As such, he uses stark terms to describe the problem -- which aren't accurate. The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation says Social Security will "reach insolvency" in 2035, which is 20 years away. The Social Security Agency itself says the total trust fund reserves for Social Security will deplete in 2034, which is 19 years away.

10) "I've cut spending $2 billion, except for our pension and health care in New Jersey, which is driven predominantly by Obamacare." Republican undercard debate, November 10, 2015

Christie says that he has cut $2.3 billion in spending compared to fiscal year 2008, two years before he came into office. But spending on so-called discretionary items -- not employees' pension and health care costs, which are mandated -- has actually gone up to $25.27 billion this year compared to $24.1 billion in 2011.

It is unclear what he's referring to regarding increases related to Obamacare. Earlier this year his own treasurer said that the state had saved $150 million due to Obamacare. He has, though, previously cited an Obamacare "tax" that the state will have to pay -- beginning in 2018. 

Matt Katz, New Jersey Public Radio/WNYC
Political reporter Matt Katz is The Christie Tracker at WNYC.org. NJ Spotlight is hosting his blog and running his stories, which can also be heard on WNYC 93.9 FM and 820 AM, as well as New Jersey Public Radio: Trenton 88.1, Sussex 88.5, Netcong 89.3, and Toms River 90.3.
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