By Andrew Seidman
Gov. Christie on Monday lashed out at a constituent as a communist and called Hillary Clinton a “criminal” during his audition to replace a New York sports radio host, hours after a new poll affirmed his standing as the least popular governor in New Jersey history.
The Monmouth University Polling Institute also found that two-thirds of New Jersey residents had a negative reaction to Christie’s infamous day at the beach last week, which a Newark Star-Ledger photographer captured in aerial photos that went viral.
Eighty-six percent of Garden State residents said they had seen the images, taken while state parks and other facilities were closed to the public because of a government shutdown. Many used terms such as “disgusted” (7 percent), “angry, outraged” (7 percent), and “jerk” or profanity (6 percent) when asked to state the first word that came to mind when they saw the images of Christie sitting on the beach with his family, according to the poll. Fewer than 10 percent had a positive or neutral response.
On Monday afternoon, Christie appeared on WFAN 660-AM for a sports radio show normally hosted by Mike Francesa, who is leaving the show at the end of the year.
Christie is term-limited and is set to leave office in January.
A spokeswoman for the station confirmed that Christie was auditioning to replace Francesa in the 2-to-6:30 p.m. slot. Others in the running include Chris Simms, a former NFL quarterback, and radio hosts and contributors.
USA Today first reported that WFAN considered Christie’s appearances this week as job auditions. Christie regularly fills in for Boomer Esiason on WFAN’s 6 a.m. show with co-host Craig Carton.
Co-hosting the 2 p.m. show on Monday with Evan Roberts, Christie said he was decked out in Mets gear while sitting on the beach last week, wearing a Mets hat, shorts, and 2006 National League Championship Series hat (the team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals).
When he wasn’t talking sports (the Washington Nationals, Mets rivals, “are going to suck in the playoffs,” he declared), Christie sometimes went into combat mode as he fielded calls from unhappy constituents.
One, calling himself John from Montclair, told Christie he had done a “horrible job” as governor and called President Trump “treasonous.”
Christie, a Republican and a friend of Trump’s, responded, “I’m enormously relieved we don’t have a criminal in the White House like Hillary Clinton, who I’m sure you supported.”
“You voted for Jon Corzine and Barbara Buono,” Christie told the caller, referring to the Democrats he defeated in his two gubernatorial elections. “Congratulations.”
During the Republican National Convention last year, Christie gave a speech highly critical of Clinton that elicited chants of “Lock her up!”
Another caller, Mike from Montclair, called Christie by an obscene reference to his girth and took exception to the governor’s beach outing.
“I love getting calls from communists in Montclair,” Christie said, adding that the caller was a “bum.”
Christie is scheduled to co-host the show again on Tuesday. Asked whether Christie understood his co-hosting stint to be an audition, the governor’s spokesman said Christie “appreciates the interest and concern about his next employment from his friends in the media, but he is not concerned at all about it.”
“The governor enjoys the opportunity to talk about sports on WFAN and is happy to have the chance to do that,” spokesman Brian Murray said. “Despite those eight hours, as always, he will be on the job as governor.”
Fifteen percent of New Jersey residents approve of the job Christie is doing as governor, according to the Monmouth survey, which tracks with other public polling. That is the lowest in the history of New Jersey polling.
Just 30 percent of Republicans — members of Christie’s own party — say he’s doing a good job.
“It really is difficult to drive approval ratings into the single digits barring something like a criminal conviction. However, you have to admire Christie’s seeming tenacity for trying to get his numbers down to that level,” said Patrick Murray, the poll’s director. “In reality, Christie may have found the floor for his ratings, but it’s a level where most of his constituents now feel his time in office has hurt the state.”
Eighty percent of residents disapprove of Christie’s job performance, and a majority (55 percent) say the state is worse off because of his time as governor, the poll said. Fifteen percent say the state is better off than when Christie took office in 2010.
The Star-Ledger published the beach photos during New Jersey’s three-day government shutdown.
Christie had shut down state government because of the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s failure to send him a budget before the new fiscal year began July 1. Christie had told Democrats he would sign their spending priorities into law only if they also passed separate legislation to restructure the state’s largest health insurer.
He signed an executive order closing all state parks and other nonessential services. That included Island Beach State Park, south of Seaside Heights, where the state maintains a residence for the governor.
Christie stayed at the residence with his family and his son Andrew’s friends over the Fourth of July weekend, even as the beach was closed off to the general public because of the government shutdown.
The Star-Ledger journalist took photos of Christie lounging on the beach with his family on July 2 during the morning, before the governor headed to Trenton for work.
“I don’t apologize for it. I don’t back away from it. I think my poll numbers show I don’t care about political optics,” Christie said at the time.
Christie’s approval rating is well below that of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (41 percent approval to 35 percent disapproval), a Democrat who is under indictment on corruption charges.
Forty-nine percent approve of U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker (D., N.J.), while 30 percent disapprove.
The poll of 800 New Jersey adults was conducted by phone between July 6 and 9. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.