Lawmakers Go to Bat Over Gov Remark

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday lashed out at a state senator who is a frequent critic for collecting a pension and salary at the same time. His remark that the media should "take the bat out on her" has raised eyebrows. (Published Friday, Apr 15, 2011)

    Two Democratic lawmakers sent letters Friday to all 120 New Jersey legislators, urging them to condemn Gov. Christie's suggestion that the media "take the bat out" on a 76-year-old state senator who criticized him.

    Bergen County Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Connie Wagner are demanding a retraction and an apology to Sen. Loretta Weinberg, saying Christie's comment advocates violence against women and sets a poor example.

    "The governor's offensive and disturbing language has no place in decent society," said Vainieri Huttle. "The Legislature needs to speak as one in denouncing the governor's comments as unacceptable, not only toward women but to every New Jerseyan of good will who understands threatening language is wrong."

    The lawmakers have asked their colleagues to join them by replying by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

    Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, both Democrats, also said Christie's remark crossed a line.

    U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who has tangled with Christie over costs of a new rail tunnel linking New Jersey and New York, said in a Facebook post that "the Governor of New Jersey should not engage in such bellicose rhetoric."

    Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said anyone who was in the room during Wednesday's press conference knew Christie's comment was directed at the media's soft treatment of the issue of pension double-dipping.

    "Ratcheting it up beyond that is partisan politics and an attempt to divert attention from Sen. Weinberg's hypocrisy," Drewniak said.

    The insult swapping began when Weinberg criticized the governor for being too soft on Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo Jr., who is collecting a pension and a salary for the same six-figure job.

    Weinberg later acknowledged that she is receiving a pension and salary and said she was forced to tap into her pension after being victimized by Bernard Madoff's investment scam.

    She then suggested Christie look at his own Cabinet. Cabinet Secretary Lou Goetting is paid $130,000 a year in addition to about $87,000 in annual pension payments after retiring from state government.

    Goetting's arrangement, like DiVincenzo's and Weinberg's, is entirely legal.

    Christie accused Weinberg of "hiding behind Bernie Madoff" and being a hypocrite.

    "I mean, can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?" Christie said. "Here's a woman who knows she did it, yet she comes to you and is pining ... 'Oh! My goodness! How awful this is! What a double standard!' But she's the queen of double standard."

    Weinberg ran for lieutenant governor on Gov. Jon Corzine's ticket in 2009. They lost to Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

    A poll out this week by Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics poll showed 53 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans view Christie as a "bully." That's up from 35 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Republicans who described the governor that way in an August survey.

    The poll found that residents of both parties increasingly consider the governor "arrogant." A majority of respondents also agreed that Christie is "stubborn," "smart," "independent" and "a strong leader."