I tend to agree with most of the crisis communication “experts” who feel N.J. Gov. Chris Christie handled things well yesterday in his press conference about the controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
The governor fired the people he said were responsible. He was apologetic and repeatedly said he was misled and felt humiliated — and he kept the press conference going until he answered every reporter’s question (almost two hours).
That said, none of what Christie did will work if it turns out he’s not being honest about how much he knew and the extent of his role in the affair. Having worked in a governor’s office, I believe it is highly unlikely, but not impossible, that Christie didn’t know about the lane closures, especially since he is a notorious micro-manager.
On the other hand, it’s hard for me to imagine that Christie would have stated so emphatically and so publicly that he didn’t know about the plans to close the lanes and intentionally snarl traffic. He’s smart enough to realize the consequences if he is caught lying about his knowledge of the incident, and he must know that the press and various government agencies are going to be looking into the affair aggressively for a long time.
One other note on a related development that took place yesterday: The fact that former Port Authority official David Wildstein invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions before the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee could ultimately prove to be very damaging in the long run.
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