Gov. Chris Christie’s much discussed friendship with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones began with none other than Jon Bon Jovi. WNYC has confirmed that the Jersey-born rocker was the first to connect the two.
But other details about the relationship are proving hard to pin down, because Christie has made conflicting statements about when he first spoke to Jones. And that timeline matters. Here’s why: In March 2013, Christie issued a joint press release with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo encouraging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which the governors control, to issue a lucrative concessions contract to a company that Jones co-owns. After that, Jones made gifts worth an estimated tens of thousands of dollars to Christie in the form of luxury box tickets to three Cowboys games this season — plus airfare to one game in Green Bay.
Christie has invoked the “friends” provision of state ethics laws that allows such gifts. But when did the men become friends? Was it before the contract was awarded? If so, that could pose an ethics violation, Democrats argue.
Christie said last week that there was no chance of favoritism because the men didn’t have contact until the summer of 2013. “When he got the contract, I knew nothing about it, I didn’t know him, I didn’t have any relationship with him, nor did I have any influence or knowledge of who was going to run the concessions at World Trade One, nor quite frankly, do I care,” Christie said on his call-in radio show on 101.5 FM.
But last month, on an interview show broadcast on PBS, he said: “I’ve become friends with Jerry over the last five years.”
And last April, according to newly unearthed tape, he went futher, telling a detailed story about how he revealed his fandom in a 2009 interview with a newspaper reporter, prompting Jones to call him. “So that got out and it got national press that I was a Cowboys fan running for governor of New Jersey,” he said. “And the next day I got a call from Jerry Jones.”
It appears that this particular newspaper article didn’t publish until 2010, after Christie was in office, so his memories may be muddled on this point. He also may have been taking some storytelling liberties in truncating the timeframe. Plus, Jones himself has said the men didn’t meet until 2013.
But the discrepancy of several years has yet to be cleared up by the governor.
Another detail the governor’s office has refused to provide: Who paid for Christie to see the Cowboys play the Eagles in Philadelphia last month? We know he was there — he was cursed at from the stands — and we know that he hung out at the game with Jones and Democratic power broker George Norcross. But Christie’s spokespeople won’t say who purchased the ticket. Of the six Cowboys game he attended this season, this is the only game that they haven’t talked about.
A new poll indicates that Christie’s support of the Cowboys is actually damaging his standing among Eagles fans in the southern part of New Jersey. Two months ago he was beating Hillary Clinton among Eagles fans in a hypothetical presidential match-up, but since the high-profile aborted hug with Jones on national TV, that support has evaporated. Clinton is now beating him in that demographic.