WEST NEW YORK, NJ (CBSNewYork) – Gov. Chris Christie says he’s been getting a lot of e-mails and calls from people upset over his decision to lower flags to half staff Saturday to honor Newark native Whitney Houston.

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“And I’m disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise, and we don’t know what is the cause of her death yet, but because of her history of substance abuse, that somehow she’s forfeited the good things that she did in her life. I just reject that on a human level,” said Christie in West New York on Wednesday.

“When I’ve seen these messages and e-mails that have come to me, you know, dispariging her for her struggles with substance abuse, and what I say to everybody is, there but for the grace of God go I.”

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The governor also made further clarification.

“I’m not saying that Whitney Houston is a role model,” he said, adding that she is a cultural icon, whose accomplishments deserve the honor.

He’s also ordered flags lowered for all native soldiers killed, fallen police officers, and the death of the E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons, among others.

Houston’s funeral will be a private ceremony at New Hope Baptist Church on Saturday.

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