On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference to distance himself from the growing scandal over allegations that his staff orchestrated a massive, week-long traffic jam on access ramps to the George Washington Bridge to exact political revenge on a mayor who refused to endorse Christie in last year's election.
At the press conference, Christie denied any "emotional relationship and closeness" with his high-school classmate David Wildstein, the Port Authority official at the center of the scandal. "David and I were not friends in high school," Christie said. "We were not even acquaintances in high school...We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time." Wildstein, who ordered the lane closures that led to the traffic jam, resigned his Port Authority post last month. On Wednesday, in response to a subpoena, Wildstein gave state lawmakers emails and text messages about the scandal, including an email that appears to show Christie's deputy chief of staff instructing him to create "traffic problems." (Christie fired the deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, on Thursday morning.)
Christie and Wildstein may have traveled in different circles when they went to school together in the late 1970s, but they appear to have developed a kinship since then. Christie appointed Wildstein to a newly created position at the Port Authority, director of interstate capital projects, in 2010. And a March, 2012 article in the Record, a daily newspaper based in northern New Jersey, appears to contradict Christie's claim that he has no current ties to his high-school classmate. The piece details how Wildstein's colleagues viewed him as the "eyes and ears" of the governor's office at the Port Authority, someone with a "political agenda rather than one built on reform or improving the region’s transportation system." The Record's article, drawn from anonymous interviews with other Port Authority employees, paints Wildstein as a Christie loyalist, one with an unfailing devotion to pushing the governor's goals and who was understood to represent the governor's voice at meetings.