TODAY   |  October 30, 2012

Christie blasts Atlantic City mayor for ‘mixed messages’

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about his disappointment with Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s “mixed messages,” saying “I feel badly for the folks in Atlantic City who listened to him.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the governor of that state of new jersey . good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt.

>> you guys took a direct hit, and i know you'll probably not know the extent of the damage until daylight and you get to see the areas by ground and by air, but based on the reports you've been getting overnight, what's the state of your state ?

>> it's a major disaster , matt. we have over 2.4 million people without power across the state . we've had flooding in the raritan bay and newark area. the city of newark is 95% without power due to substation flooding. all that came from the tidal surge that came up from the storm through raritan bay and newark bay , the same thing you see affecting new york city , and we have a battered, battered new jersey shore that i hope to tour a little bit later on today, but i think the losses are going to be almost incalculable.

>> yeah. i was watching reports all afternoon and evening, governor, from long branch and point pleasant beach and atlantic city , and do you have a lot of people that you think you're going to have to go out and account for this morning, search-and-rescue missions to find people that you haven't heard from?

>> we are in the midst of search-and-rescue missions in atlantic city now, matt. we're in the midst of search-and-rescue missions in moonachie, new jersey, where there was significant flooding from, again, the tidal surge last night. that's up in bergen county . we've done a number of rescues already last night and through this morning. we have search and rescue teams positioned throughout the state . they are doing that right now. unfortunately, we've had three deaths so far in new jersey from the storm. we're hoping to make sure we don't add to that total.

>> you need help obviously. i know you spoke to president obama on a couple of occasions yesterday. he's offered his help. what's the federal government 's response been like so far?

>> federal government 's response has been great. i was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally. he has expedited the designation of new jersey as a major disaster area. i was on the phone with fema at 2:00 a.m . this morning to answer the questions they needed answers to get that designation, and the president has been outstanding in this, and so the folks of fema, craig fugate and his folks have been excellent

>> i know you took exception with the handling of this situation by the mayor of atlantic city , lorenzo langford. you were very upset that he didn't evacuate that city or all of that city and instead offered some people shelter in some city shelters, and you said that he was a rogue mayor and said, quote, i don't have a feud with the guy, but i wish he would do his job. a little time has passed between those comments and right now, the emotional level has come down. do you still feel that way?

>> listen, the fact of the matter is i feel badly for the folks in atlantic city who listened to him and sheltered in atlantic city , and i guess my -- my anger has turned to sympathy for those folks, and we're in the midst now of trying to go in and save them. daylight has come. we've got an urban search and rescue team with,000 both and 20 state police personnel. we have search and rescue teams down there as well. we're going to try to save the folks. i'm sorry that they received mixed messages. for some reason the mayor gave folks a mixed message. we need to get these people out and safe, and that's what we're going to do.

>> finally like so many other states, the state is dealing with a financial crisis . the budget is very tight. how much of the bill for the cleanup in your state is going to have to come out of state 's coffers? can you afford it?

>> well, listen, we have to afford, it mai. the fact of the matter is i think we'll get significant federal assistance on this and major disaster declaration last night by the president is incredibly helpful in that regard. we'll work with our federal partners on this. if i have to make cuts in the budget in other places to make sure we afford this i'll do it. too early to tell on that. i don't really know. i spoke to my budget folks yesterday, and they told me that that's not something they are concerned about at the moment. not something i'm concerned about at the moment. the first thing we've got to be concerned about is minimizing loss of life, saving people who need to be saved and then we'll move from there, and new jersey, listen, you know this, matt. new jersey is a tough place. we'll recover from this, and we'll be just fine and whatever we need to spend to get it done, we'll do what we need to do to make sure that gets done.

>> we're your neighbors in this, and our thoughts go out to the people of new jersey. governor, good luck to you.

>> thank you, matt.