New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was hit from all sides Monday, getting excoriated by police unions for missing a state trooper’s funeral in order to appear at a Donald Trump rally, where he was criticized as an absentee governor by Trump himself – while Christie was seated just feet away.
The funeral for State Trooper Sean Cullen, who was accidently hit by a car while responding to a car fire on March 7, is the third police funeral Christie has missed during the 2016 race. He also failed to attend funerals for Port Authority Police Officer Eamonn Mautone in January and State Police Trooper Eli McCarson in December, both coming when Christie was still a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno attended the funeral in Christie’s place.
“We are focused on honoring our fallen brother today, and quite frankly we did not expect someone who has consistently shown disdain for law enforcement to pay his respects to the Cullen and State Police family,” President of the State Trooper Fraternal Association Chris Burgos said in a statement.
All State buildings are flying flags at half-staff today in honor of the passing of New Jersey State Trooper Sean Cullen.— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) March 14, 2016
Multiple media inquiries to the governor’s office were referred to the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign did not respond to several media inquiries, including one from FoxNews.com, about the matter.
Christie did tweet about Cullen, noting that “All State buildings are flying flags at half-staff today in honor of the passing of New Jersey State Trooper Sean Cullen.”
But he spent most of his time Monday campaigning for Trump, who was appearing in Columbus in a bid to beat Ohio Gov. John Kasich in that state’s Tuesday primary. During a section of his speech critical of Kasich for what Trump believed was spending too much time out of state campaigning in New Hampshire, Trump launched a broadside at Christie, his one-time nemesis-turned-supporter.
“Your Governor Kasich, if you look at him, and I’m being totally impartial, he goes to New Hampshire, he’s living in New Hampshire, living” Trump said. “Where’s Chris? Is Chris around? Even more than Chris Christie he was there! Even more.”
Trump then looked back to his left, seeming to find Christie. “I hated to do that, but I had to make my point,” Trump said.
Christie said during a March 3 news conference that he would support Trump but would not be a full-time surrogate.
“He and I are friends and so if he picks up the phone and calls me and says, ‘I need you to help somewhere,’ and he makes a compelling case for it and I have the time to do it, I’m going to go help him,” Christie said. “If I can’t, I’m going to tell him I can’t.”
Still, newspapers including the Asbury Park Press and The New Jersey Star Ledger have called for Christie to resign for spending too much time away from the state.
That controversial travel schedule, which led to Monday’s absence from Cullen’s funeral, was not wholly out of character for Christie, New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan wrote in a text message to an NJ Advance Media reporter.
“I will say, as respectfully as I can considering we are burying a brother in blue today, I am not surprised whatsoever,” Colligan wrote.