NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — In his audition to replace WFAN sports talk host Mike Francesa on Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie couldn’t avoid politics.
Christie joked about his use of a state-owned beach that was closed during a government shutdown and his low approval rating and took a shot at Hillary Clinton. He was also confronted by some angry callers.
One listener, Mike in Montclair, told Christie: “Next time you want to sit on a beach that is closed to the entire world except you, you put your fat a– in a car and go to one that’s open to all your constituents.”
“I love getting calls from communists in Montclair,” the governor shot back.
“You’re a bully, Governor, and I don’t like bullies,” Mike responded.
WFAN’s Evan Roberts, co-hosting with Christie on both Monday and Tuesday afternoons, opened the show by poking fun at the Republican governor for being photographed from an airplane as he sat in a beach chair at Island Beach State Park earlier this month.
“We have Gov. Christie, who’s kind enough to be in the studio, not at the beach,” Roberts said.
“Awwwhhh, that’s nice. That’s very nice,” Christie responded before saying Roberts had asked the governor to sneak him and his family onto the beach.
Christie, a loyal Mets fan, revealed that he was wearing a Mets shirt, Mets shorts and a 2006 NLCS Mets cap in the now-infamous photos taken by NJ.com.
Roberts made it clear, however, he didn’t want the show to turn political.
“We’re going to do a sports show, by the way, people,” he said.
But politics still crept in from time to time. For example, Roberts asked longtime WFAN update anchor John Minko, a New Jersey resident, if he approved of the job Christie has done as governor. After Minko said he did, Christie, referring to his dismal approval rating, exclaimed, “He’s one of the 15 percent!”
Later, he brushed aside any potential concern about flagging public opinion.
“The later you get in your term, the less you care,” he said. “You’re not running for re-election.”
After a discussion about Christie’s fantasy baseball team, Roberts asked how the governor had any time to do his job.
“I don’t do anything. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. I do absolutely nothing. I’m just totally mailing it in,” Christie joked.
“Of course, that’ll be the headlines: ‘Christie says he’s mailing it in,'” the governor then said.
And after a caller chastised Christie for supporting President Donald Trump, the governor said he’s relieved “we don’t have a criminal in the White House like Hillary Clinton.”
But even Trump wasn’t immune. When Roberts suggested Christie try to be less boring on Twitter, like the president, Christie quipped: “Is that what you really want to be my role model?”
Monmouth University released a poll Monday showing Christie’s approval rating holding steady at a dismal 15 percent, an all-time low. Eighty percent disapproved.
The numbers were virtually unchanged since a June 14 Quinnipiac University poll that found Christie with a 15 percent approval rating and an 81 percent disapproval rating.
Eight hundred people surveyed by landline and cellphones were asked for the first word that came to mind to describe how they felt about Christie in the beach photos. The largest share of residents said “disgusted” and “angry, outraged.” Tied for the next biggest share was “jerk, profanity used,” according to the survey.
“Christie may have found the floor for his ratings, but it’s a level where most of his constituents now feel his time in office has hurt the state,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray.
The Monmouth survey was conducted July 6-9 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Eighty-six percent of the respondents said they saw the July 2 photos of Christie on the closed beach.
He told reporters at a news conference later that day in Trenton that he hadn’t gotten any sun that day. Then, when told of the photos, his spokesman told NJ.com that the governor was telling the truth because he was wearing a baseball hat.
While the budget impasse was caused by a dispute between Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature, it was the beach photos that made the most news, leading to headlines around the world and memes across the internet.
Christie refused to apologize for it and said he doesn’t care about “political optics.”
Christie, with about six months left in office, is entering lame-duck territory with the Democratic and even Republican candidates running to succeed him tossing him aside.
Democratic nominee Phil Murphy used the beach photos to help raise cash. In an email to supporters, he wrote that Christie “disgraced New Jersey” by shutting down the government and sitting on the closed state beach.
Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who publicly questioned Christie’s decision to go to the beach, said the budget Christie signed “spends too much” and the people “get too little.”
This week’s news won’t be much better for Christie.
David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty to masterminding the George Washington Bridge lane closure scheme to punish a mayor who wouldn’t endorse Christie, is set to be sentenced Wednesday, and the Senate is holding a hearing the same day on President Donald Trump’s FBI pick, Christopher Wray.
Christie has called Wray, a former Justice Department official under George W. Bush, a top-rate lawyer and said Wray was the only lawyer he sought out when he needed legal help during the bridge scandal. Wray held the missing cellphone that was used by the governor and contained about a dozen text messages that Christie exchanged with a former staffer during a legislative hearing related to Bridgegate in 2013.
Christie has denied wrongdoing and was never charged in the 2013 scheme that has already seen two former aides convicted and sentenced to prison in a plot to close the lanes to retaliate against a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t back Christie’s re-election effort.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)