(Adds dropped word "the" in second paragraph)
By Victoria Cavaliere and Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK Feb 1 New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie was greeted with audible boos and a few loud cheers
during a Super Bowl-related appearance in New York City on
Saturday, a day after a former appointee said the popular
Republican knew about politically motivated lane closures near a
busy commuter bridge.
The incident cast a cloud over Christie at what could have
been a moment of triumph for the man considered a leading
candidate for his party's nomination to run for president in
2016. The Super Bowl will be played on Sunday in East
Rutherford, New Jersey.
The governor's introduction was met with a chorus of audible
boos and chants of support from the thousands of people gathered
in the area for a Super Bowl street fair.
He did not mention the scandal during brief remarks in which
he thanked the NFL and his New York counterpart and Super Bowl
co-host, Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The negative public sentiment was unusual for Christie, the
chairman of the Republican Governors Association who coasted to
re-election as governor in November with 60 percent of the vote.
In the weeks since starting his second term, Christie has
been dogged by scandal since it emerged last month that some of
his aides and appointees orchestrated traffic jams around the
George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey. State and
federal investigations have been launched into the lane closures
in September, which came after the town's Democratic mayor
declined to endorse the governor's re-election bid.
Christie has adamantly denied any knowledge of the lane
closures and cut ties with two of his top advisers for their
apparent role in the scheme.
David Wildstein, a long-time Christie acquaintance and one
of his appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, which managed the bridge, resigned from his post after
it emerged he oversaw the closures.
On Friday, an attorney for Wildstein said "evidence exists"
Christie knew of the closures when they were happening. The
letter did not indicate Christie involved himself in the
closures in any way, did not specify exactly when he became
aware of the jams and offered no evidence to back up the claim.
As Christie attended Super Bowl events on Saturday, his
office fired back against Wildstein with a vigorous defense of
The email to the governor's friends and supporters accused
Wildstein of seeking immunity amid an ongoing probe by state
lawmakers and a U.S. attorney into the shutdown. "Bottom line -
David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David
Wildstein," the email stated.
The email entitled "5 Things You Should Know About the
Bombshell That's Not A Bombshell," was posted on the political
news website Politico.com and confirmed by Colin Reed, a
spokesman for the governor.
The email also took aim at Wildstein's credibility.
Wildstein's lawyer, Alan Zegas, did not immediately respond
to a request for comment about the email.
Wildstein on Friday said he could "prove the inaccuracy" of
some of Christie's denials.
The letter describes the order to close the lanes as coming
from "the Christie administration," but does not say that
Christie himself orchestrated the closures in any way.
"ON THE BRINK OF RUIN"
Christie said he was blindsided by his advisers' involvement
and promised to cooperate with various state and federal
Local newspapers on Saturday said the governor's political
career could be doomed if it was proven he knew in advance of
the four days of lane closures that caused massive delays for
commuters, ambulances and school buses.
The New York Daily News said in an editorial that Christie
now "stands on the brink of ruin" if he cannot defend himself
against the latest claims.
"In that event, Christie's governorship is over and he
should prepare to face a federal criminal probe as a private
citizen. Resignation would be a must. Otherwise, impeachment
would be a snap," it said.
Charles Stile, a columnist for the Bergen Record, a major
New Jersey newspaper, wrote on Saturday that if Wildstein
produces evidence that "turns out to be the damning,
incontrovertible kind, then Christie's career will be in
tatters, if not over."
Shortly after Wildstein's attorney's letter emerged, the
Christie administration said it contained nothing to contradict
Christie's position that the governor had "no prior knowledge"
of the closures.
A bipartisan committee of state lawmakers is investigating
the episode, as is the office of Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney
for New Jersey.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)