Heckler, Christie respond to tough talk confrontation

TRENTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- It's exactly why some people love New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and why others, well, don't.

The tough-talking republican exploded at a protester during an event in Belmar meant to herald the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore, two years after Hurricane Sandy.

That's exactly why Jim Keady chose to attend.

When Keady spoke out in front of Christie on Wednesday afternoon he says it wasn't about getting attention for himself, but the plight of Sandy victims who are still waiting for money that, he says, is tied up by red tape in Trenton.

In the now famous confrontation, Christie told Keady, "So listen. You want to have the conversation later, I'm happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up."

Keady, of Spring Lake, heckled the governor while holding up a sign that read "Get Sandy families back in their homes - finish the job".

He explains, "Finish the job means getting the 6,000 plus homeowners that have either been wait-listed, have been rejected, or just a flat-out walked away from this REM program because they are frustrated. Get them the money they deserve so they can get back in their homes."

Keady is a former Democratic councilman in Asbury Park. His family runs the lighthouse Tavern in Waretown.

He advocates for Sandy victims like Krista Sperber, who two years after the storm is still waiting for money from the REM program, which provides grants for raising and rehabbing houses.

Sperber tells us, "We've been homeless for two years. My children are growing up outside their home. It's not 'sit down and shut up.' I need somebody to speak up."

At Wednesday event Christie said to Keady, "Somebody like you who doesn't know a damn thing about what you're talking about, except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here. I've been here when the cameras aren't here, buddy, and done the work."

Keady says he has too, taking off almost a month from his job after the storm to help residents clean up.

The former pro soccer player says his mission is to bring attention to Sandy victims and the governor's tongue lashing won't dissuade him.

"And it's been 23 months since then, and you'll you've been doing is flapping your mouth and not doing anything," Christie said to Keady.

However, Keady tells us, "I'm 6'4, 215 pounds. I'm a former D-1 and professional athlete. His tactics are certainly not going to bully me."

On Thursday a video was posted to Chris Christie's YouTube channel, in which he responded to the heckler controversy.

Christie said, "I tell people all the time, you know this is New Jersey - if you give it you're getting it back. I love having an atmosphere where we don't have to have that kind of interchange, and at most of my things we don't. But if someone's going to stand up, and I ignore them for a while, and then they continue to be rude and talk over me and block other people, then I'm going to engage."

The governor continued by saying, "That's what the people of New Jersey, and I think a lot people in this country, have come to expect from me. I don't look forward to that stuff, but I'm not going to shrink away from it either. So, it's just another day at the ranch."

Now, some people love the governor's tough talk. A political analyst said he sounds like one of the Sopranos. But as Christie mulls a run for the presidency, there are others who wonder if this Jersey guy persona will play in Middle America.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.