WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican hopeful for 2016 presidential race made a formal apology to the public on Thursday and fired a top aide who was behind the scandal surrounding the closure of lanes on a highly trafficked bridge last fall as an act of political retribution.
"I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team. There's no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for their appropriate role of government and for the people that we're trusted to serve," said Christie at the first news conference following the disclosure of the scandal.
"All of the people who were affected by this conduct deserve this apology and that's why I'm giving it to them. I need to apologize to them for my failure as the governor of this state to understand the true nature of this problem sooner than I did. But I believe I now have an understanding now of the true nature of this problem," said Christie.
He fired on Thursday morning Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff who was behind the scandal, because "she lied to me. "
Emails and texts disclosed on Wednesday showed that Kelly and Port Authority official David Wildstein, a Christie appointee, were involved in closing lanes for four days on George Washington Bridge last September. The move was seen as an act of political retribution against Democratic New Jersey Mayor Mark Sokolich after he refused to endorse Christie in his 2013 reelection bid.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly emailed to Wildstein.
"Got it," Wildstein emailed back.
Christie responded Wednesday afternoon in a statement that he was unaware of Kelly and Wildstein's involvement in the lane closures and his staff had misled him about the case. He pledged to hold people accountable for the events.
Sokolich said Wednesday that the act of retribution against him was "the lowest level of political venom that you can even make up, " and called for an apology from Christie to the local people and an investigation into the case.
The controversy is likely to continue to expand, as more details emerged, including local news reports about an elderly woman who died due to the lane closures.
The U.S. Attorney in New Jersey will open an inquiry into the lane closures, U.S. media reported Thursday.
Wildstein is due to testify in front of the New Jersey state Assembly Transportation Committee on Thursday.