Gov. Phil Murphy lashed out at Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) for attending a private Republican event in New Jersey this week. The Democratic governor of New Jersey regressed to name-calling, and called Gaetz a "fool," for attending a gala.
Gaetz attended a gala in Jersey City hosted by the New York Young Republican Club on Thursday, where he was a featured speaker. Photos of the event were posted online, and Gov. Murphy took aim at Gaetz on Friday.
During a Friday news conference, Murphy attacked the Republican representative by calling him a "knucklehead."
"That guy in the middle, the tall, handsome fella in the gray suit, that is Representative Matt Putz - oh sorry, Matt Gaetz, and based upon his past performances, it is obvious being a knucklehead is not beyond the pale for him," Murphy said, according to WCMH-TV. "He was actually Sarah Palin's backup act for this event."
Murphy doubled down on his criticism of Gaetz on Twitter where he posted a photo of the event, which showed Gaetz and several other Republicans at the gala. Murphy went so far as to say he never wants Gaetz to return to New Jersey.
"Last night, the @NYYRC allegedly snuck into Jersey City to hold a 'gala fundraiser' – ignoring our social distancing and mask rules," Murphy tweeted. "It is beyond the pale that anyone would willingly endanger people in another state. Jersey City law enforcement is investigating this matter."
"It is also beyond the pale that Rep Matt Putz – I mean @RepMattGaetz – would participate in this. What a fool. Matt – You are not welcome in New Jersey, and frankly I don't ever want you back in this state," he added.
It is also beyond the pale that Rep Matt Putz – I mean @RepMattGaetz – would participate in this. What a fool. Mat… https://t.co/RzHxk8GlNO— Governor Phil Murphy (@Governor Phil Murphy)1607105406.0
Gaetz responded on Twitter by highlighting that New Jerseyans are fleeing the state.
"You're gonna regret this tweet when you move to Florida like the rest of New Jersey," Gaetz retaliated.
Data compiled by United Van Lines from March 1 to Aug. 19 found that New Jersey had the highest rate of exodus of all states; 69% moved out of N.J. compared to 31% of people moving into the Garden State.
Florida was the third most popular destination for New Jersey taxpayers in 2017-18, according to census records. "Between the 2011-12 and 2017-18 tax years, the income of tax filers from those states moving to Florida has doubled."
Gaetz then responded to Murphy's comment with a light-hearted joke about his appearance.
Thank you for calling me handsome, Governor! I’m only considered handsome in New Jersey, though. In Florida I’m b… https://t.co/HeRZcyTxXJ— Matt Gaetz (@Matt Gaetz)1607109214.0
New York Young Republicans Club President Gavin Wax refuted the allegations of wrongdoing at the gala.
"The @NYYRC Gala was held in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations," Wax tweeted. "Any suggestion to the contrary and any legal threats are made in bad faith and politically motivated. As far as we are aware, the First Amendment has not been repealed."
Vish Burra, the gala organizer and New York Young Republicans vice president, said the group "did everything by the book," and contended that the 150-person capacity complied with state rules because the event was protected political speech.
Check me out on @NBCNewYork talking about the @NYYRC #ForbiddenGala https://t.co/gA407lGtsb— Destroyer of Worlds Vish (@Destroyer of Worlds Vish)1607182027.0
Jersey City officials launched an investigation into Maritime Parc, the venue that held the Republican event.
"In Jersey City we take Covid enforcement very seriously, and this event appears to be an egregious violation of the governor's executive orders, including capacity limitations and mandatory mask wearing," Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) said in a statement.
Jake Hudnut, Jersey City's chief prosecutor, said, "These photos of COVID-19 violations are dangerous and unacceptable. Maritime Parc is under the jurisdiction of @NJGov's Liberty State Park. We will follow up w/ LSP Police today. Any summonses will be prosecuted fully in #JerseyCity's courts."
Fulop posted a photo of the health department's notice ordering the venue to shut down.
"This establishment known as Maritime Parc, 84 Audrey Zapp Dr., has been ordered CLOSED until such time as the operators prepare and submit a written operational plan to the Jersey City Department of Environmental Health," read the order, signed by Division of Environmental Health Director Happy James Boor.
.@MaritimeParc https://t.co/Cf37mvN0Bz https://t.co/QwUr7Jn5XA— Steven Fulop (@Steven Fulop)1607104594.0
A spokesperson for Maritime Parc said the booking was "last minute," but it was in a room with a maximum capacity of 600 people.
"The New Jersey State Police were in fact onsite throughout the event to ensure guidelines were followed, prior to issuing the initial statement as well as the order to temporarily close," the statement from Maritime read.
"Maritime Parc will assist the investigation in whatever ways necessary and is eager to help," the venue stated. "They had done everything in their capacity and that is required to be compliant here – including informing the group several times of New Jersey's social distancing regulations."
The venue's management declared that the event did not exceed capacity limits and only found out about the order to close through social media.
Gaetz reacted to the business being shut down by advising, "Dear Business Owners - Escape the Tyrany. Move to Florida."
He also asked, "Should we organize a "peaceful protest" of lockdowns in New Jersey?"
Should we organize a “peaceful protest” of lockdowns in New Jersey?— Matt Gaetz (@Matt Gaetz)1607132391.0
Some online critics pointed out that Murphy was being hypocritical since he previously attended a Black Lives Matter-inspired protest in Hillside, New Jersey. Murphy was seen at a crowded protest on June 7 for "Hillside Strong March to End Racism, Police Brutality & Embrace Diversity." Murphy was seen not practicing social distancing at the event, which violated the governor's own order he signed in late May that prohibited gatherings of more than 25 people.
Today, in Hillside, we marched for justice. For George Floyd and for the many before him – who lost their lives f… https://t.co/zvh1dRSEQO— Governor Phil Murphy (@Governor Phil Murphy)1591555061.0