NEW YORK (AFP) – He’s a Donald Trump ally with abysmal approval ratings and now the governor of New Jersey has sparked fresh outrage after being photographed lounging on a beach closed to the public because of a government shutdown.
For millions of Americans, nothing says Independence Day holiday weekend like going to the shore and soaking up the sun, before indulging in a barbeque and watching the fireworks.
Except New Jersey’s state beaches and parks were closed by Republican Governor Chris Christie on Friday due to a budget standoff with Democrats in the state legislature – spoiling plans for many of the state’s nearly nine million residents and other visitors headed to its shores.
While lesser mortals stayed home, Christie was photographed on Sunday (July 2) on a pristine stretch of deserted sand, relaxing with friends and family at Island Beach State Park, where the governor has an official summer residence.
At a news conference before the pictures emerged, Christie denied getting any sun.
After images to the contrary – taken by a photographer for NJ Advance Media from a small plane – were released, his office remained defiant.
“He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on,” a spokesman told US media.
Neither did Christie appear to think it was unfair to spend the weekend at the beach when other holiday-goers were shut out.
“Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” he was quoted as telling reporters on Saturday.
The photographs generated a torrent of criticism in the local press and social media memes at the governor’s expense.
Christie defended his visit by saying the beach house was separate from the park and that his family did not receive state services.
He ordered the shutdown of non-essential services after failing to agree on budget terms with state lawmakers. Among the services closed was the ferry from New Jersey to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
In June, a Quinnipiac University poll gave Christie an approval rating of 15 per cent, saying it was the worst rating for any governor in any state it surveyed in more than 20 years.
A failed contender in last year’s Republican race for US president, he was one of the first mainstream Republican politicians to endorse Trump and went on to play a role on his transition team.
But last November he was demoted as head of that team, replaced by Vice President Mike Pence after two of his former aides were convicted at trial for deliberately causing traffic snarl-ups to wreak political revenge on a Democrat.
Christie’s two-term stint as governor is due to end in January 2018.