LONDON, England — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) wrapped up a three day trade mission to London on Tuesday that was widely seen as an effort to build his stature as a national figure and potential 2016 presidential candidate. However, the trip was marred by confused locals, cancelled press availabilities, and bad headlines that left the governor’s brand battered and bruised.
Christie’s visit began with the governor watching a game between the Premier League soccer teams Arsenal and Aston Villa on Sunday. The New York Times noted many of the Londoners attending the game seemed to have no idea who the governor was. Christie told the paper he was unconcerned about the lack of acknowledgment.
“I don’t think I have to worry about that,” Christie said. “I’m not running for anything in the United Kingdom anytime soon.”
On Monday, Christie visited the city of Cambridge where he met with representatives of the life sciences industry, visited a cemetery for American soldiers who died in World War II, and toured the laboratory at MedImmune, a company that makes vaccines. The lab visit led to the first major firestorm of Christie’s trip.
After the tour, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Christie to weigh in on the national debate over a measles outbreak that has been linked to growing numbers of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Christie responded by saying the government needs to “balance” the need for vaccines with giving parents a “measure of choice” in whether to inoculate their children.
Christie’s comments sparked an immediate backlash from critics who cast them as an expression of support for the anti-vaccination movement that has focused on widely-debunked claims of a link between vaccines and autism. This controversy dominated the political news cycle and left Christie’s office backpedalling and attempting to clarify his remarks.
Following his trip to Cambridge, Christie met with British Prime Minister David Cameron at his residence and office, 10 Downing Street. Reporters who covered this event attempted to ask the governor questions, but he merely waved as he departed.
After watching Christie’s arrival and departure from Cameron’s residence, Business Insider visited a nearby pub, the Red Lion, that is known as a watering hole for London’s political set. Once again, it seemed few of the Londoners were aware of Christie or his visit.
“I’ve never heard of him. Until now,” James Stonham, a banker, said when asked about the governor.
Liam Trim, who said he works in digital marketing, described himself as being interested in American politics. However, though he’s following the 2016 race a bit, he knew nothing about Christie.
“Had heard of Romney dropping out but hadn’t heard of Chris Christie before today,” Trim said.
One person in the pub, a 22-year-old staffer for a Member of Parliament from Cameron’s Conservative Party said they knew of Christie. However, their impression of him wasn’t exactly positive.
“I first heard of him because he’d been to over 100 Bruce Springsteen concerts,” said the staffer, who wished to remain anonymous because of his job. “Our views of the Republican Party here in Britain aren’t high, even among the conservatives.”
On Tuesday, Christie woke up to more awful headlines — a New York Times report detailing his penchant for using private jets and luxury hotels. The story noted some of these lavish travel expenses were paid for by other people, including some who had business in the state of New Jersey. According to the paper, this put the governor in “ethically questionable situations.”
The Times report also pointed to instances where Christie’s luxurious travel was paid for by taxpayers and noted his well-appointed accommodations in London. During his trip, Christie stayed at the Corinthia, a five-star hotel where rooms currently cost a minimum of $US600 per night. New Jersey taxpayers are footing the bill for the London trip and it’s estimated to cost them at least $US40,000.
Christie reportedly canceled two press conferences Tuesday in the wake of the Times story.
His final appearance of the day was a lunch meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at his residence, 11 Downing Street. According to the public schedule sent out by Christie’s office, he was going to give “brief remarks” to the media after the meeting with Osborne.
“We had a lot of fun,” was the only thing Christie reportedly said following the event.
Reporters attempted to asked Christie questions before he drove away from 11 Downing with his entourage. He declined to answer.
“Is there something you don’t understand about no questions?” Christie said.
Needless to say, after all this, Christie’s London trip has been getting terrible reviews.
Multiple reporters and Democratic operatives compared the journey unfavorably to 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s overseas campaign trip that generated negative headlines across the US:
Not since Mitt Romney has a non-incumbent presidential hopeful taken a foreign trip that’s been marked by so much bad press at home
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 3, 2015
Chris Christie giving Mitt Romney a run for his money for “worst presidential wanna-be trip abroad of all time”
— Ben Ray (@BenRay) February 3, 2015
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