June 26, 2019 | 82° F

Award-winning author Matt Katz discusses new book about New Jersey governor

The room was packed full of people all holding the same book — Matt Katz’s "American Governor."

Matt Katz, an award-winning reporter and author, came to the Eagleton Institute of Politics on Jan. 26 to discuss "American Governor," a political narrative about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his life.

The article explores all aspects of Christie’s rise to power.

Katz has been covering Christie since 2011. He began reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer and now for WNYC, where he won a Peabody Award for his investigation of the "Bridgegate" scandal.

At first, he said he did not want to cover Christie. But Katz was enticed by Christie’s prominence.

“I liked the idea of diving into a subject and knowing more than any outsider,” Katz said.

Katz started following Christie, saw him grow in popularity and said that a town hall meeting helped set Christie “on fire." One of his notable actions was talking back to a public school teacher, which shocked the public.

In 2012, Christie was begged to run for president, Katz said. Christie declined and became Republican nominee Mitt Romney's most important “attack dog” against President Barack Obama.

But Hurricane Sandy is why he was re-elected, Katz said. He showed the people of New Jersey that he would put them before politics.

“In November 2013, my life changed, and his life changed at the same time,” Katz said.

As Christie became more prominent, so did his followers. Christie was at his prime and Katz got a book deal.

Soon after, Katz said the George Washington Bridge scandal forced his downfall.

“This changed everything, most importantly my book,” Katz said.

Christie effectively ended his public schedule. He did not attend press conferences or town hall meetings as he did before, Katz said. Republicans no longer wanted to be seen with Christie, and he faced relentless media scrutiny.

Later Christie started to come out more and speak to reporters, Katz said. While he moved forward from the scandal, his image was damaged and people second-guessed his authenticity.

“I think the 'Bridgegate' scandal did more damage than we'll ever be able to quantify,” Katz said.

Christie has emphasized different things over the course of his career, he said.

Early on, he created groups for black college students, homosexual students and feminists. Christie was ahead of his time and was very popular within those groups, Katz said.

But as his career took off, he changed in order to win the Republican nomination, he said.

Christie was one of the last candidates to say anything about the Confederate flag in North Carolina, he is against the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it inspires “cop killers,” and he would not allow Syrian orphans to enter the county.

“But I think he has a good heart when it comes to equality,” Katz said. “I think that’s the real him."

Carol Marin, an audience member, said she was interested in hearing Katz discuss the governor.

“I find the governor is not my favorite person, and I was just interested in how he might appear to a reporter who spent so much time with him,” she said.

Marin said she was not surprised.

“I would say that his portrayal of Christie more or less confirmed my preconceived ideas of who Christie is as a person,” she said.

Noa Halff

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