Updated 12:30 p.m. ET
What’s worse than a government shutdown closing state-operated beaches on a sweltering holiday weekend?
Now we know: Seeing photos of the governor — a key player in the budget standoff that caused the shutdown — enjoying one of those empty beaches like it was his own private island.
On Sunday, the New Jersey Star-Ledger took aerial photos of Christie and his family on the pristine Island Beach State Park, where there’s a governor’s residence. The governor is lounging in a beach chair, sand between his toes. Around him, people play paddleboard and enjoy beverages.
That afternoon, at a press conference in Trenton about the shutdown, Christie was asked if he had gotten any sun that day, the newspaper reports. “I didn’t,” he reportedly said. “I didn’t get any sun today.”
After being told there were photos of the governor on the beach, his spokesman told the Star-Ledger that the governor was briefly on the beach talking to his family. “He did not get any sun,” the spokesman added. “He had a baseball hat on.”
On Saturday, the governor had defended using a state park that is closed to the rest of the state’s residents due to the budget impasse. Christie told the newspaper that his family doesn’t use any state services while there, and emphasized that his residence is separate from the park.
With his trademark brusqueness, Christie told state residents how they could enjoy the beach.
“Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” he said.
Folks on Twitter had, well, a day at the beach, and broke out their finest memes for the occasion.
In one of the most pointed headlines to come out of the beach brouhaha, the Asbury Park Press wrote, “Gov. Christie, get the h— off the beach!”
The line references a directive issued by the governor in 2011, when Hurricane Irene was imminent and Jerseyites were playing it cool — too cool, in Christie’s opinion.
“I saw some of these news feeds that I’ve been watching upstairs of people sitting on the beach in Asbury Park,” he said at a press conference then. “Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You’re done. It’s 4:30. You’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach.”
Christie’s second term as governor ends in January 2018, when presumably he’ll have lots of time to maximize his tan.
On Monday morning, the governor tweeted a photo of a beach, touting many open beaches in New Jersey. Municipal parks and beaches are open (and were reportedly packed over the weekend), but state beaches remain closed due to the shutdown.
Christie called in to a local Fox News affiliate on Monday to say that if the Legislature passes a budget, he will sign it. Fox anchor Teresa Priolo mentioned Quinnipiac University’s latest poll, which has Christie with just a 15 percent approval rating among New Jersey voters — “the worst approval rating for any governor in any state surveyed by Quinnipiac University in more than 20 years,” according to the poll.
Priolo asked Christie if his visit to the beach signaled that he was out of touch with the people of his state.
“Most of the time when they catch politicians with hidden cameras and planes flying over you, they catch you with someone you’re not supposed to be with,” Christie said. “I was actually with who I was supposed to be with and where I was supposed to be. And I really wonder about journalists who spend money flying planes to look whether people are actually where they said they would be. I’m sure there are Pulitzers coming, it will be great.”
Meanwhile, Christie’s own Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno posted her disapproval of Christie’s beach visit on Facebook. Guadagno, a Republican, has been Christie’s second-in-command since 2010 and is now running for governor herself. In that same Quinnipiac poll, the Democratic candidate, Phil Murphy, leads Guadagno 55-26 percent.