BELMONT, N.H. (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — A video of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie making an emotional plea for better treatment for drug addicts was going viral Wednesday.
The video, published to Facebook by the Huffington Post, had racked up more than 4.25 million views as of 6:45 p.m.
Christie, who is also running for president, was filmed at a recent town hall in Belmont, New Hampshire. He compares drug addiction to his mother’s addition to nicotine from smoking, describing the many lengths she went through to quit, CBS News reported.
He said his mother had started smoking at the age of 16 in 1948, and was diagnosed with lung cancer at 71 after her attempts to quit proved unsuccessful.
“No one came to me and said, ‘Don’t treat her, because she got what she deserved,’” Christie said. “We know the lung cancer was caused by the smoking. We know it was. But no one came to me and said: ‘Hey, listen, your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was 16, then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy. We’re not going to give her radiation. We’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know why? Because she’s getting what she deserves.’ No one said that.”
But the same does not seem to apply, Christie said, when hard drugs or even alcohol are involved.
“We say: ‘Well, they decided. They’re getting what they deserved,’” Christie said. “I’m pro-life, and I think that if you’re pro-life, that means you’ve got to be pro-life for the whole life, not just for the nine months they’re in the womb.
“It’s easy to be pro-life for the nine months they’re in the womb – they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there. But when they get out, that’s when it gets tough,” Christie continued. “The 16-year-old teenage girl on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroin, I’m pro-life for her too. Her life is just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb.”
Christie said the GOP and Americans in general need to start thinking that way.
He went on to tell the story of a law school friend with whom he was in a study group at Seton Hall University.
“He came from an Ivy League school to Seton Hall. He was the smartest of all of us. He became an editor at the law review. He was the first one of us who got a job out of school – got out at a big, prominent law firm in our state – he’s making more money that any of the rest of us. He married a beautiful woman who’s a doctor. They have three gorgeous daughters – one cuter, happier, and more talented than the next,” Christie said.
Everything imaginable seemed to be going right with the man, Christie said. But on one occasion in his early 40s, the man hurt his back while out running and was prescribed Percocet while awaiting treatment.
“About a year later, I get a call from his wife, and she said, ‘He’s addicted to these painkillers, and he won’t listen, and I kicked him out of the house, and he’s living at his parents’ house, and you guys need to go have an intervention with him,’” Christie said.
Christie and his law school friends had an intervention with the man, and for 10 years afterward, he was in and out of rehab, the governor said. The man’s wife divorced him, he lost his right to see his daughters, and he lost his law license and driver’s license.
He also lost his home and the condo he bought for himself – which his wife kicked him out of, Christie said. Further, he spent all his savings and most of his retirement, Christie said. And it got far worse.
“A year and a half ago on a Sunday morning, Mary Pat and I got the call that we’d been dreading forever – that they found him dead in a motel room with an empty bottle of Percocet and an empty quart of vodka – 52 years old,” Christie said.
Christie said his friend was a model of success as defined by America, but he too was a drug addict who could not get help – and now he’s dead.
“When I sat there as the governor of New Jersey at his funeral, and looked across the pew at his three daughters sobbing because their dad is gone — there but for the grace of God go I. It can happen to anyone,” Christie said. “And so we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them. We need to give them the tools they need to recover, because every life is precious.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was among those who hit the “like” button on the video.
Christie’s focus on better treatment for addiction predates his presidential bid. He sat down for an interview with “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson in June and talked about a need for better tools to help those who are struggling, CBS News reported.
“What I’ve been saying in New Jersey is that we can no longer incarcerate our way out of this problem — that we need to give treatment. This is a disease,” he said on the program. “I think, quite frankly, the war on drugs has been a failure. And what we need to do now is to work on giving people the tools that we know we have available to us. We know how to help people. Let’s do it and let’s stop spending money on incarcerating non-violent people because they are drug addicted. Let’s get them into treatment.”
He said the most important role for the president on an issue like drug addiction is the bully pulpit to help people look at the issue differently and treat it as a disease rather than a moral failing.