POLITICS
12/20/2013 12:15 am ET | Updated Dec 20, 2013

Chris Christie: Bridge Controversy Is 'Not That Big A Deal'

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) dismissed a growing controversy over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge on Thursday, telling reporters that the problems are "not that big a deal."

Speaking during a news conference at the New Jersey statehouse, Christie said the flap over the lane closures and resulting traffic problems is being magnified because of the national press' interest in him as a political figure.

"I know you guys are obsessed with this. I'm not," Christie said, according to ABC News. "I'm really not. It's not that big of deal…just because the press runs around and writes about it both here and nationally, I know why that is and so do you, let's not pretend that it's because of the gravity of the issue. It's because I am a national figure and anything like this will be written a lot about now."

The September lane closures on the George Washington Bridge -- the nation's busiest -- caused major traffic jams in the Garden State. Some Democrats have since alleged that Christie's administration closed the lanes as political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing the governor in his reelection bid.

The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel reported:

Between Sept. 9-13, drivers attempting to cross the George Washington Bridge by the three access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., found two of the lanes closed. As a result, vehicles backed up into Fort Lee's local roads, creating a mess for both bridge and local traffic.

The closures were ordered by David Wildstein, a high-ranking Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official and an ally of Christie's. They came just weeks after Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, refused to endorse Christie's reelection bid. On Sept. 12, Sokolich said he believed the closures were "punitive," although he later backed off that accusation.

Wildstein and his boss, former state Sen. Bill Baroni, have since resigned. Christie sought to quell the growing controversy last week by holding a press conference, but many Democrats have not been satisfied with his answers.

"I don't ever remember even meeting the Mayor of Fort Lee and I certainly don't remember getting any briefings at any time from campaign staff that this was someone that was on our radar screen as a potential endorser," Christie said during Thursday's press conference. "So that's why none of this makes any sense to me. I think in the end this will be shown to be speculation by folks who want to play political games."

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