Christie miffed after successor poses next to cutout photo of him on New Jersey beach

Gov.-elect Phil Murphy sends a “terrible message” by posing for the photo, Christie says.

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Phil Murphy speaking at New Jersey Working Families Alliance 10th anniversary gala on Dec.14.
Ricardo Kaulessar/NorthJersey.com

Governor-elect Phil Murphy stands behind cutout of Chris Christie in beach chair with Analilia Mejia of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.(Photo: Ricardo Kaulessar/NorthJersey.com)

Gov. Chris Christie isn’t amused about his successor’s latest photo-op in New Jersey.

Christie said it “doesn’t matter” to him personally that Democratic gov-elect Phil Murphy posed with a cutout of the now-famous image of the Republican governor lounging on the beach, but he is disappointed by it and the message it sends to the public.

The photo of Christie sitting on the beach at the governor’s residence on Island Beach State Park during last summer’s government shutdown while the rest of the state-owned park was closed to the public was widely interpreted at the time as a symbol of selfishness but has become an enduring worldwide meme. The image of Christie sitting in beachwear with his hands in front of his chest and looking up at the sky has been used to add instant humor to photos, like a meeting at the White House or next to an elf on the shelf. 

A life-size cutout of Christie in the beach chair was used as a prop at a gala Thursday night in Glen Ridge for the left-leaning New Jersey Working Families Alliance. Murphy, alongside the alliance’s director, Analilia Mejia, bent down for a photo with a large smile.

“I think someone’s got to remind him that the campaign is over. It’s disappointing because we’ve been so open and so welcoming to him, and not playing politics at all,” Christie said Friday night.

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Murphy had campaigned on a message that he would end the “us versus them” style of politics that he saw under Christie, and he has highlighted that promise throughout his month-long transition. But Christie said Murphy’s posing for the photo on Thursday night contradicts that.

“I just think it sends a really terrible message to people about, if you say you want to bring people together and do all the rest of that, then what you should want to do is focus on the future and not be looking at the past,” Christie said.

The photo caps a week of tension between Christie and Murphy after the transition appeared to be off to a smooth start. Murphy had visited with Christie and praised his willingness to help him move into the governor’s office. But a letter from Murphy to Christie expressing concerns over budget numbers became public at the beginning of the week, upsetting Christie that it had leaked to the press before he could respond. And his response was at points harsh toward Murphy, who has never held elected office, and his transition team.

In a brief interview following an event with the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, Christie suggested that Murphy’s transition could be moving quicker. He has announced three Cabinet choices – two of them in the last week. And Murphy’s choice for treasurer, Democratic Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio, is already facing questions from Republicans about her experience and qualifications to be responsible for a $35 billion budget.  

“Now it’s time to govern. And, you know, with only three Cabinet members named and some real questions about some of the experience of some of them, he’s got to focus on governing. I would hope he would get to that,” Christie said.

Murphy was traveling back from Puerto Rico on Friday night. A spokesman for Murphy’s transition team did not respond to a message seeking comment.

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