NORTH WILDWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie is apologizing to a New Jersey official for comments he made while responding to critics over the way he handled the weekend winter storm.
“I got carried away last night at a Town Hall meeting, it is not the first time that I’ve gotten carried away and said something that I later apologized for,” Christie said. “Doesn’t happen often but it happens.”
At a Town Hall event Monday, the Republican presidential candidate was asked why he was campaigning in New Hampshire instead of staying in New Jersey.
“Because it’s already done,” he responded.
When the questioner said she had friends and family all over the state complaining about flooding, Christie said the flooding was not as bad as it could have been and that Cape May was the only county where flooding happened.
“I don’t know exactly what you expect me to do,” Christie said. “You want me to go down there with a mop?”
The governor is not backing down over the comment, claiming “it was a joke.” Christie was irritated with suggestions the mop comment might play into perceptions he’s been absent often from New Jersey.
“I was here. You can’t be AWOL when you’re here. Yeah, I’ve been here plenty. It’s a joke– if you don’t like the joke you don’t like it, that’s all.”
CBS2’s Steve Langford talked to residents in New Jersey on Tuesday to find out what they thought of the governor’s remarks.
“He should definitely be down here with his people,” one resident said.
“He should be trying to clean up a little better, look at the snow, roads are a mess,” another resident said.
“I think he was being a little bit sarcastic,” another said. “I think he does have an agenda. He is in the political arena for presidency, I don’t know if he necessarily has to be here 24/7 to do his job.”
During the event, Christie also made a comment about North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello, saying he had heard “one crazy mayor down in south Jersey say this is worse flooding than Sandy.”
Christie then said that North Wildwood did not get hit by the October 2012 storm, which caused catastrophic damage along the coast and in other areas of the state.
“So of course it’s worse than Sandy for him!” Christie said. “Well, damn, man. You didn’t get any flooding in Sandy! So if you got a foot of flooding, it would be worse than Sandy.”
Rosenello said Tuesday that Christie called him to apologize.
“When I had a night to sleep on it and woke up this morning I didn’t feel good about it, what I had said about him,” Christie said.
Speaking on the Coast 98.7 FM, a Cape May-based radio station, Rosenello said that Christie also asked him to apologize to first responders and North Wildwood residents and business owners.
“I think he recognizes that he misspoke. And he did,” Rosenello said. “I think he knows he misspoke. We know that he misspoke.”
Rosenello had said Monday that he was “disappointed that (Christie) would lower himself as much as he did,” noting that he was one of his earliest supporters during both of his runs for governor. Rosenello also said he has met and interacted with Christie and his family numerous times.
The mayor said his town’s dune system had suffered major damage and was “severely compromised” by the weekend snowstorm. He also said that roughly 150 people were safely evacuated from their flooded homes.
“My perspective is somewhat different from that of the governor as he campaigns in New Hampshire,” Rosenello said.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat who represents Cape May and Cumberland counties, asked the governor on Monday to seek a federal disaster declaration for those areas, citing the reported flood damage.
Christie said the state is assessing the damage to see if it meets the required minimum to apply for such relief.
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