"Rogue Mayor" Fights Back Against Christie Claims

Mayor Lorenzo Langford tells "Today" that claims that he urged residents to stay in shelters or self-shelter are absolutely false.

By Kelly Bayliss, Jon Schuppe and David Chang
|  Friday, Sep 20, 2013  |  Updated 12:40 PM EDT
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"Rogue Mayor" Fights Back Against Christie Claims

NBC10

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford continued their finger pointing on NBC's "Today" on Tuesday over Atlantic City's preparation for Hurricane Sandy.

Both politicians called in to the talk show to slam each other -- one day after Christie criticized Langford for opening shelters in the city, instead of insisting that residents leave in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.

So, NBC10 went back and looked at the video from Langford's press conference on Saturday -- two days before Sandy slammed the shores of the resort town.

"You need to evacuate, and you need to heed the warning," Langford told Atlantic City residents.

Christie's complaint: By opening shelters in the city, Langford gave residents a backup plan -- that he said could endanger their lives and those of rescue teams. At the height of the storm, officials estimate as much as 80 percent of Atlantic City was underwater. Christie said state and federal rescue teams had to assist residents -- even those at shelters.

"The governor is either misinformed and ill-advised or simply just deciding to prevaricate," Langford told Matt Lauer on Tuesday. “Here we are in throes of a major catastrophe and the governor has chosen a time such as this to play politics. I think it’s reprehensible that he would stoop to the level to try and make a political situation out of something that is so serious as this situation,” he said.

 
Christie returned fire in his own "Today" interview.

"The fact of the matter is, I feel bad for the people of Atlantic City who listened to him," Christie told "Today." 

 

Mayor Langford continued to defend himself during a press conference at noon: 

For the governor to inject politics into a situation such as this is reprehensible. I don't know what motivates an individual to do as he did with no basis. 

Many of you in the media were present during not one but two press conferences on Saturday. You heard the message. It wasn't ambiguous. It was clear and direct and consistent. It was the same message that the governor had put out. We implored our residents to heed the warning, to evacuate the city as soon as they could. However, in any situation you're never going to bat a thousand. There's always going to be that certain few that despite your best efforts are going to do as they see fit anyway and then at the last minute decide that they should have left. In life it's better to have options and not need them than to need options and not have them. So we had a plan, not just for those who did heed the message and left, and the statistics speak for themselves, but also for those stubborn enough or confused enough that for whatever reason decided to stay around. 

The governor is dead wrong. The question really is, where is the source? Who gave the governor the information that we countermanded a direct order? Where's the evidence? The governor was simply dead wrong.

Here's what Christie said on Monday to start the spat:

"For whatever reason, Mayor Langford urged people to stay at shelters in the city," Christie said. "You've got people staying, either self-sheltering in their homes or sheltering in city shelters, one of which is a block away from the bay, in a school, which is now flooded completely."

Christie and Lorenzo have a history. Christie criticized Lorenzo after Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, when some people were stuck on buses for hours. Earlier this month, Christie said Lorenzo "failed" the city when talking about the city's high homicide rate.

"I don't have a feud with this guy, I just want him to do his job," Christie said.

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