New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie practically dared a nurse to sue him for quarantining her even after she tested negative for Ebola. "Whatever. Get in line," the brash Republican said Tuesday during a campaign stop in Rhode Island. "I've been sued lots of times before. Get in line. I'm happy to take it on."
Maine nurse Kaci Hickox spent a weekend in an isolation tent at a Newark hospital after she flew back from West Africa, where she was treating Ebola victims. After she threatened to sue, she was released on Monday and driven back to her home state. A range of public-health experts have said quarantine for doctors and nurses who are not sick is unnecessary and could hurt efforts to wipe out the Ebola crisis at its source in West Africa.
Christie dismissed complaints about Hickox's treatment as "malarkey" and said he had no concerns about the fact that she was kept in a tent.
"She was inside the hospital in a climate-controlled area with access to her cellphone, access to the Internet and takeout food from the best restaurants in Newark. She was doing just fine," he said.
The new comments come a day after Christie said that he felt no pressure from the White House to allow Hickox to be transferred out of the New Jersey quarantine, calling reports of clashes between him and the Obama administration “absolutely false.”
“I have a very good relationship with the White House and we work professionally together and I never felt any [pressure],” Christie said Monday in an interview with NBC.
He added that he's been speaking "regularly" with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and that he spoke twice with top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett about Hickox's situation — once after the announcement of the nurse's release from quarantine in New Jersey.
"In fact I got a call from her again yesterday saying to me, 'Did you get any contact from us that I didn't know about?' I said, 'Absolutely not, Valerie,'" he said.
Aides to the administration have said that the mandatory quarantines for health workers who may have been exposed to Ebola, instituted by Christie and New Jersey Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are unnecessary and could be counterproductive.
A war of words between Hickox and Christie erupted over the weekend, with the nurse claiming that her rights were being violated by the New Jersey protocol. On Monday, Christie’s office said that she would be allowed to return to Maine for home isolation.
Later Monday, Christie defended the White House against allegations of exerting political pressure, calling that charge “unfair.”
“There is absolutely no truth to it at all,” he said. “And by the way, if they did, it wouldn't change my mind anyway.”
Christie, a possible 2016 presidential contender, stood by his original decision to keep Hickox in quarantine until 24 hours after she tested negative for Ebola.
“I'm glad she can be comfortable and back in her home now where she wants to be, but I hope, I think upon reflection she will understand that my job is to protect the health and safety of the people of New Jersey and the region,” he said. “And that's the only reason I made the decision I did, and I wouldn't make the decision differently if I had to do it again."
— NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.