Nightly News   |  January 09, 2014

Angry, embarrassed and 'humiliated,’ Christie apologizes

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was unaware his senior staff and political appointees orchestrated a days-long traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge. NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> good evening, the governor of new jersey , chris christie , said today he is angry, he is embarrassed. he is humiliated, but he is innocent. he was talking about a monumental multi-day traffic backup on the busiest bridge in the world, the george washington bridge , which connects new jersey with new york. now we know it was put together by a member of the governor's senior staff and a political appointee who apparently wanted to use heavy traffic as a political payback. but today during an epic, almost two-hour long news conference, the governor, who is one of the big stars of his political party said it was not him and he did not know what his own people had done. we begin tonight with nbc's kelly o'donnell who took part in the questioning today. live in ft. lee, new jersey, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian, chris christie fired a deputy and a member of his staff, saying they betrayed him. he said he gathered all of his senior staff around and had been wrongly told nobody was involved. so he apologized today about the jokes he made about the traffic jam story. his trademark in your face style, tempered today by scandal inside his owner circle.

>> they hurt the people of new jersey and hurt the people of ft. lee, and the person who needs to apologize for that is me.

>> reporter: appearing contrite, sometimes mournful. and in his words, embarrassed.

>> i did not know this, i was deceived. that is a terrible way to feel.

>> reporter: facing more than 20 cameras, dozens of questions in a marathon news conference with his national political future on the line, governor chris christie insisted he never knew about and never okayed what he called a political vendetta.

>> let me tell you everybody, i was blindsided yesterday.

>> reporter: christie said he learned only yesterday about a series of damaging e-mails which he called stupid and callous, now firing bridget anne kelly seen here with the governor in september. wrote time for some traffic problems in ft. lee, today, the man who responded, got it.

>> on advice of my counsel, i assert my right to remain silent.

>> reporter: david wildstein refused to answer any questions.

>> same answer, sir.

>> reporter: the e-mails suggest there was a deliberate political motivation, behind four days of snarled traffic last september at the george washington bridge .

>> the delays at the gw bridge are a solid hour.

>> reporter: aimed at the democratic mayor of ft. lee, who did not back christie in the election. christie said he does not lead a culture of payback. critics say this shows you are a political bully, that your style is payback, are you? and does this compromise your ability to serve?

>> no, i'm not, kelly , listen, politics ain't bean bag , and everybody who engages in politics in the country knows that. on the other hand, that is very, very different than saying somebody is a bully. i am who i am, but i am not a bully.

>> reporter: the governor promised action and headed to ft. lee to apologize at first to the mayor who resisted at first.

>> we would ask that he delay his visit here today.

>> reporter: but christie came anyway. with lots of coverage of the coming and going of their private meeting.

>> very good, very warm, very productive.

>> reporter: and the mayor said after that meeting that he does take the governor at his word that he was not personally involved. christie says more facts need to come out and likely will as questions continue. and one unusual thing today, brian, especially for chris christie , there was very little conversation at that news conference about his presidential decision.

>> kelly o'donnell starting us off on this presidential chapter that