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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Christie’s Contradictions

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on CBS’ “Face the Nation” contradicted two of his previous statements, on Planned Parenthood and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor:

  • Christie said he “never donated to Planned Parenthood.” We cannot definitively say that he has or hasn’t, but Christie was quoted in the state’s largest paper in 1994 as saying he did support the nonprofit “privately with my personal contribution.”
  • He said he “didn’t voice support for Sonia Sotomayor.” But in 2009, he said, “I support her confirmation” and urged the Senate to confirm her, while noting that he wouldn’t have nominated her.

We’ll start with Christie’s comments on Planned Parenthood.

The issue came up when “Face the Nation” anchor John Dickerson asked Christie about recent attacks by GOP primary rival Marco Rubio. In a Jan. 7 Fox Business News interview, the Florida senator said: “Chris Christie personally contributed to Planned Parenthood.”

Christie, Jan. 11: Well, I never donated to Planned Parenthood. So, that’s wrong.

Secondly, for him to be trying to characterize my conservative record in that way is contrary to what Marco himself said. Marco himself has said that I was a conservative reformer in New Jersey.

So, here is the thing. I’m not going to spend my time talking about Marco Rubio. OK? If Marco wants to think that — this is a guy who stood up and really lectured Jeb Bush on the debate stage: Someone has told you that, by criticizing me, it helps you.

Well, apparently, that same someone is now talking to Marco. I’m not going to fall for that. You saw my response to Marco. It was the play on an ad where I talk about the dangers of Hillary Clinton being president.

The fact is, I’m going to keep focused on defeating Hillary Clinton. Marco wants to continue to say stuff about me, I’m happy to stand by my record of having made decisions.

Dickerson: So, just on the Planned Parenthood, never donated, never supported?

Christie: No. No.

That claim is contradicted by a Sept. 30, 1994, story, which appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger and was written by Brian T. Murray, who is currently the governor’s spokesman. We tried to reach Murray to ask about his article 22 years ago, but he did not respond to our phone call or email. Christie’s campaign told us there is no record of such a donation, and that Christie — who once supported abortion rights — has never made one.

In 1994, Christie was a candidate for a county freeholder seat in Morris County, and the Democratic freeholder candidates were pressing the county freeholder board to restore funding for Planned Parenthood. Christie opposed the restoration of funding, saying it was a matter of funding priorities and organizations such as Planned Parenthood should rely on private donations, not public funds.

Star-Ledger, Sept. 30, 1994: “I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution and that should be the goal of any such agency, to find private donations,” said GOP freeholder candidate Chris Christie.

“It’s also no secret that I am pro-choice … But you have to examine all the agencies needing county donations and prioritize them. I would consider all groups looking for funding, but there is a limit and we have to pick and choose,” he added.

As we noted, our attempts to reach the author of the article were unsuccessful. Murray left the Star-Ledger in December 2010 and shortly after joined the Christie administration, first in the Department of Labor and since March 2015 in the governor’s office, according to his LinkedIn page.

We asked the campaign about Murray’s article, and we were told in an email that there is no record of a donation to Planned Parenthood. We should note, though, that there would be no public record, since donations to nonprofits are not required to be disclosed.

The Christie campaign also pointed out that Christie’s quotes in the 1994 story were in the context of denying public funding for Planned Parenthood, and the difference between private donations and public funding. Fair enough, but that doesn’t explain why Christie was quoted as citing his donation to Planned Parenthood as an example.

The campaign also provided background on an incident in 1995 that triggered Christie to switch from what he described as a “non-thinking pro-choice person” to an abortion opponent. In a June 14, 2011, interview forwarded to us by the campaign, Christie told Piers Morgan on CNN that he became uncomfortable with his support for abortion rights after hearing for the first time his daughter Sarah’s heartbeat at 13 weeks old during a prenatal visit.

“That was back in 1995, and I’ve been pro-life ever since,” Christie said.

We can’t say exactly when Christie became an opponent of abortion rights, but it appears to have happened sometime after 1995. A July 10, 1996, story in the Star-Ledger said Christie “considers himself pro-choice” but voted as a freeholder on a resolution urging Congress to override President Clinton’s “veto of a bill that would ban most partial-birth abortions.”

“It offended me and my sensibilities. When you take a position of choice, you don’t have that in mind,” Christie was quoted as saying in the Star-Ledger.

A 2012 biography of the governor titled “Chris Christie: The Inside Story of his Rise to Power” noted that Sarah Christie was born February 1996 and mentioned the discrepancy between what Christie told CNN in 2011 and what he was reported to have said by the Star-Ledger in 1996. The book also contains the Christie quote from 1994 saying he made a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Regardless of exactly when it happened, there is no question that Christie is now an opponent of abortion and has been one for many years. The Star-Ledger reported that he won the endorsement of Morris County Right to Life during his 1997 reelection campaign after he supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. As governor, Christie defunded Planned Parenthood in his first budget for fiscal year 2011 and vetoed legislation that sought to restore $7.5 million in funding for the agency.

In his July 23, 2010veto message, Christie cited the state’s “unprecedented financial difficulties,” which he said resulted in “worthy programs” that were cut or eliminated.

Did Christie support Planned Parenthood and make a contribution to it more than two decades ago? We can’t say for sure. The governor says no, but his words as reported at the time suggest otherwise.

Updated, Jan. 13: In an interview with Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, Christie said he was misquoted by Murray, who as we noted earlier is now a spokesman for the governor. “Listen, this is a quote from 21 years ago. I’m convinced it was a misquote,” Christie told Rubin.  

Denying Support for Sotomayor

Also in the “Face the Nation” interview, Dickerson asked Christie about criticism he has received from conservatives who say “you voiced support for Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court. What’s your response to that?”

Christie responded: “I didn’t voice support for Sonia Sotomayor.” (See the 6:43 mark of the extended online interview.) But that’s not what he said in 2009, when President Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

As the Star-Ledger reported on July 17, 2009, Christie, then a candidate for governor, said Sotomayor “would not have been my choice,” but that “I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination.”

The website PolitickerNJ carried more of Christie’s statement at the time:

PolitickerNJ, July 17, 2009: “After watching and listening to Judge Sotomayor’s performance at the confirmation hearings this week, I am confident that she is qualified for the position of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Christie, a former federal prosecutor. “Elections have consequences. One of those consequences are judicial appointments. While Judge Sotomayor would not have been my choice, President Obama has used his opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court by choosing a nominee who has more than proven her capability, competence and ability.”

“I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination. Qualified appointees should be confirmed and deserve bi-partisan support. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito deserved that support based on their work as Circuit Court Judges. So does Judge Sotomayor,” Christie said. “As a result, I support her confirmation. This is a historic moment and her inspiring success story should not only make the Latino community proud, but all Americans.”

— Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson