The video I promoted this morning has made its way around the twittersphere, and it has touched off a bit of a debate: does it show evidence that Chris Christie lied about knowing controversial pastor Amir Khan, or not?
Again, here's the clip:
Is Christie telling a lie? Well:
- When Christie is asked about Khan, he says "I don't know who you're talkin' about," even though Khan is right behind him.
- There are reports that Khan was behind the curtain before the event started, and took his seat just before Christie emerged.
- Khan has appeared at least once before sitting behind Christie at a town hall.
- Khan himself says he has met with Christie "frequently."
- Christie's Attorney General, Paula Dow, has been effusive in her praise of Khan.
- Khan has used his church to promote school vouchers and fight local authorization of charter schools.
Now, is it possible that Christie still doesn't know who Khan is? Sure, it's possible. Maybe Christie's staff has created a firewall for him; maybe Christie has a bad memory; maybe this is all just a big coincidence...
But the question in Voorhees that day was whether Chris Christie's friends have been granted charter schools. In politics, I'd say someone who appears on stage with you multiple times, receives praise from your senior cabinet members, and claims to have met with you "frequently" counts as a friend.
And the fact is that Amir Khan's charter was the only one granted in the last two rounds that is not in a former Abbott district (here and here). There is a strong whiff of favoritism here.
So what does the preponderance of the evidence tell us? For me, it's one of two things:
1) Christie knows exactly who Khan is and lied about it.
2) Christie's staff has created a culture of plausible deniability - exactly the sort of thing he railed against as a US District Attorney.
To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse. But I know neither is the sort of governing that is in the best interests of New Jersey's students.
Charters should only be granted to highly-qualified applicants with a very good chance of success, and only when the local community approves. This community clearly does not. Political favoritism should have nothing to do with it.
And that's no lie.
ADDING: Here's another account of the Voorhees town hall from the South Jersey Sun News:
Christie called on Voorhees resident Tracye McArdle, who has previously spoken in favor the Regis Academy Charter School on the Cherry Hill–Voorhees border. In December, she publicly supported Solid Rock Worship Center’s Pastor Amir Khan, on his recent Department of Education charter school approval.Gosh, it sure is lucky for everyone she was called on, wasn't it?
Khan and his wife were present at the meeting and were seated in the rows behind the governor among local politicians and dignitaries.
At the meeting, McArdle thanked the governor for allowing charter schools to come into the community.