New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) would like you to know that he definitely did not get a tan this weekend.
Yes, Christie told reporters at a Sunday news conference in Trenton, his family was staying in the state-owned beach house at Island Beach State Park over the July 4 weekend â even though the park was closed to the public amid a statewide government shutdown.
He had been unapologetic about that gubernatorial perk the day before: âThatâs the way it goes,â Christie said Saturday. âRun for governor, and you can have the residence.â
And, yes, he had joined his family at said state-owned beach house, flying between the barrier island and Trenton using a state helicopter. But when asked if he got any sun, Christie was clear.
âI didnât,â he said Sunday, according toÂ the Newark Star-Ledger. âI didnât get any sun today.â
That was before the newspaper showed the governor aerial photos of himself and his family relaxing on a very large and otherwise empty (because it was closed) portion of the state beach.Â The exclusive photos were published Sunday evening on NJ.com, sparking outrage from New Jersey residentsÂ already upset about the stateâs budget impasse.
The slide show also prompted the equivocation of the year from Christieâs spokesman, Brian Murray.Â âHe did not get any sun,â Murray toldÂ the Star-Ledger. âHe had a baseball hat on.â
The photos wereÂ taken from the open door of a small plane by Star-Ledger photographer Andrew Mills, who claimed in aÂ behind-the-scenes columnÂ that Christie made eye contact with himÂ from the beach.
âMost of the time, I get the shots and make a clean getaway. But once in a while, when the eyes meet, you know the jig is up,â Mills wrote. â â¦ In one photo, Christie looks me dead in the eye. He has to know whatâs happening. Why else would a plane make two passes over his private beach party when thereâs no one else around?â
The collection of aerial photos sparked a debate online over which shot was the most damning.Â Was it the close-up picture that showed Christie lounging in a beach chair, face clearly turned upward to soak in the sunâs rays?
â NJ.com (@njdotcom) July 2, 2017
Or was it a zoomed-out photo showing Christie and his party enjoying a public beach all to themselves with the taxpayer-funded mansion in the background?
â Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 3, 2017
The governor also drew ridicule for a tweet from his official account, posted about half an hour before the Star-Ledger published the aerial beach photos.Â In the tweet, Christie linked to a YouTube video that showed him placing blame for the shutdown on Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
New Jerseyâs government shut down Friday night after lawmakers failed to pass a budget before the July 1 deadline.
âIâm not the person who has drawn a line the sand here,â Christie tweeted.
Iâm not the person who has drawn a line the sand here. https://t.co/dJmapywYjm
â Governor Christie (@GovChristie) July 2, 2017
Multiple people called him out for his poor choice of words.
âUh, not the thing to be saying given that you, in fact, at this point are the only one able to draw lines in the sand in NJ,â one Twitter user replied.
Another added: âBut you must be; youâre the only one who can get to the beach.â
Uproar over the photos â dubbed âBeachgateâ online â continued into Monday, as many of the stateâs ânonessential servicesâ remained shuttered.Â Among those affected so far were a Cub Scout group forced to leave a state park campsite and drivers unable to obtain documents from the state motor vehicle commission, theÂ Associated Press reported.
Itâs unclear if Christie himself will suffer any career-damaging fallout from the incident. After all, heÂ has weathered major political setbacks before, from the âBridgegateâ scandalÂ to a failed Republican presidential primary campaign in which he was repeatedly humiliated by then-candidate Donald Trump.
Christie remained unfazed by the photos â and the backlash â Monday, according to his spokesman.
âThe Governor announced Monday on Ask the Governor and at subsequent news conferences that he would be joining his family at the beach this weekend,â Murray told The Washington Post. âWe are gratified The Star-Ledger has confirmed what he said on three occasions.â