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Chris Christie's response to viral beach photo isn't likely to help his dismal approval rating

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie faces fierce criticism over his Fourth of July beach snafu on live radio. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a message for constituents who are upset by his visit to a state-owned beach house this weekend — and it's not likely to help his already dismal approval rating.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger newspaper captured Christie and his family Sunday lounging on the beach. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a big deal. But because the Democratic-controlled state legislature failed to pass a budget, non-essential state government services shut down. Those services considered to be non-essential included a public beach on the Jersey shore — and the closure came just in time for one of the busiest holiday weekends of the summer.

Members of the general public who had previously scheduled plans to kick back at Island Beach State Park had to go somewhere else, since keeping the area open wasn't considered to be "essential."

But Christie apparently considered the state-owned beach house there, one of two official residences for the New Jersey governor, to be "essential." It wasn't just the fact that Christie went to the beach over the Fourth of July weekend. Critics also blasted Christie for claiming Sunday that he didn't get any sun when, clearly, he did.

"I didn't get any sun today," Christie told reporters just hours after the Star-Ledger took an aerial photo of him soaking up some rays.

Christie responded to the widespread criticism Monday morning on WTXF-TV's "Good Day Philadelphia."

"What a great bit of journalism by the Star-Ledger," Christie told anchors Mike Jerrick and Alex Holley. "It's an incredible scandal, as you know, because they actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with."

The governor, who is currently in his last term as the state's chief executive, reminded the hosts that he said last week that "whether the government shut down or it didn't, we're going to be here because it's our residence."

Christie continued to downplay the controversy by blasting the media.

"So they actually caught a politician keeping his word, being where he said he was going to be and, oh my god, what a scandal, he actually was with his wife and his children, and they caught him," Christie told WTXF.

Holley pressed Christie further, pointing out that not everyone had the luxury of maintaining their weekend plans.

"But governor, you can understand though, why a lot of people are upset," Jerrick said. "They can't go to that beach. They want to be able to do what you were doing and they can't."

The governor's response was vintage Christie, but in this case, his comment isn't likely to help his approval rating.

"Well, I'm sorry they're not the governor," Christie shot back.

"I mean, this is a residence. It's — here's the problem, we have a residence in Princeton as well and that place is a place where people can go and tour but they can't if the government's closed. Am I supposed to move out and stay in a hotel?" Christie asked.

Jerrick followed up Christie's comment by bringing up the "optics" and beginning to suggest that he could have stayed somewhere else.

Christie wasn't having any of it, though.

"This is the problem with politics today," Christie replied, "that when I tell you the substance of the problem then you say, 'Well you know the optics.' The fact is that the reason the park is closed is one simple reason. I didn't close it. The Legislature did not pass a budget to me for me to sign so that we'd have the money to keep it open. That's the simple fact of the matter."

Christie added that he told members of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature last week that he would sign "any budget."

"Pass me any budget. I will sign any budget that you give me," Christie said he told state lawmakers.

"The fight is not between me and the Legislature. The fight is between Democrats in the legislature," the New Jersey governor said.

The controversy came in the last year of Christie's administration. In June, his approval rating was just 15 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. The dismal number makes Christie the least popular governor in New Jersey state history, Politico reported.

Christie responded to the Quinnipiac poll in June by saying he just doesn't care.

“That fact is, who cares?” Christie said, Politico reported.

Then, addressing reporters, the governor added, “You guys care much more about that stuff than I do. I’ve said to you over and over and over again: Poll numbers matter when you’re running for something."

"When you’re not running for something, they [poll numbers] don’t matter a bit. And I don’t care," Christie said.

One last thing…
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