UPDATE, 5 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stood by his decision to lower flags to half-staff on the day of Whitney Houston's funeral, saying he wasn't honoring her as a role model, but rather as "a daughter of New Jersey."
"What I would say to everybody is there but for the grace of God go I," Christie said.
Christie pointed out that the cause of Houston's death is not yet known, and said he is "disturbed" by the belief that "because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she's forfeited the good things that she did in her life."
He also said that he has ordered flags in the state be flown at half-staff for all 31 of the New Jersey soldiers who have died during his time in office and every fallen police officer during that time. Some of the criticism surrounding Christie's decision centered on the idea that Houston's honor was more than that received by those who died for their country.
ORIGINAL STORY: Controversy continues to swirl around the death of Whitney Houston, and now New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has stepped into the fray. The Republican governor has ordered U.S. and state flags flown at half-staff at all state government buildings on Saturday, the day of her funeral.
Christie defends his decision by deeming the singer a "cultural icon" of the state, along the lines of Jersey musicians Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Bruce Springsteen.
He goes on to say, "Whitney Houston was an important part of the cultural fabric of this state … Her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for this state as a whole. On that basis, I think she's entitled to have that recognition made for her."
Governors of American states are authorized by federal law to make this order at their discretion to honor state officials or residents who have died. Nothing requires that the person honored must be a politician or service member; in fact, Christie approved a similar order when Springsteen band member Clarence Clemons died last June.
But some are arguing that due to Houston's public struggles with drugs, such an honor is not deserved.
“Whitney Houston was truly an icon whose life was cut short by her own demons. I don't think that flags should be flown at half-mast to honor her, when so many of our servicemen have lost their lives fighting for our country and have not gotten the same recognition,” comments Rbegyn on The Huffington Post. “To honor a woman who by her own choice was addicted to drugs, and to promote that kind of celebrity rather than honor our distinguished servicemen who gave their lives, not by their own choice. Another wise decision by our esteemed governor.”
Tom concurs on New Providence.com, “I am an American service member and do not agree with this at all! She has done nothing for the country other than entertain, and should not be given an honor reserved for people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country! I feel this degrades such an honor.”
Even some of those who are those most supportive of the late singer can’t wrap their heads around it.
Sara DiMeglio tweets, “Wow #NJ hit a new low today. Half mast flags should be for heroes that died.. I love Whitney but come on let's be real here!”
Rest assured the governor will be hearing about it. His phone number has already been posted on numerous websites with a call-to-action. Wrote Ipalumbo on The Huffington Post, “When I called a nice lady let me vent about the status of flying flags at half staff. Apparently, she is being inundated with phone messages that feel the same way as I do.”
One person commenting on a story on NJ.com went as far as to say that some state employees will willingly disregard the order. Under the name General Rant, the commenter wrote: "Don't worry, I work at a state building and trust me, it'll be at the discretion of the management. If you think there'll be full compliance with the order, think again, because there won't."
Some are in favor of the honor, mentioning Houston's national anthem performance at the 1991 Super Bowl as an example of her patriotism. Derek Price wrote on msnbc.com's Facebook page, "She represented the United States to the world and inspired millions with her voice and beauty. I see no reason they should not lower the flags since she sang arguably the greatest ever rendition of the Star Spangled Banner."
And someone going by Plato1973 posted on NJ.com that dying in the line of duty is not the only way to serve one's country. "It is important. WH was the best, most beautiful singer of our lifetime. ... Your message is that you have to be killed in order to be appreciated by this country. Whitney gave us far more than we could have ever given her back. Her songs will last forever and that deserves a ton of recognition."
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