Gov. Chris Christie took questions on a range of topics Thursday at a Statehouse news conference, where he nominated a Democrat to run the state's transportation department and railed against the legislative investigation into the shutdown of lanes near the George Washington Bridge last year.
The governor also played defense for embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Christie said Thursday he strongly believes Goodell should stay in his job despite mounting criticism over his handling of a domestic violence incident involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
"He's an outstanding man, an honest man in my interaction with him," said Christie during an evening appearance on New Jersey 101.5 FM's "Ask the Governor" call-in show, when asked whether Goodell should stay or go.
Christie, who worked with the commissioner during the lead-up to the Super Bowl, said Goodell should not be judged for a single error.
"I absolutely believe Roger Goodell is a good, honest, decent man that has great integrity. He's admitted he made a mistake in the Rice case in his initial" handling of the incident, Christie said, adding "We have to be a society that considers the totality of somebody's work and their life."
"In my mind, if I were an NFL owner, I'd be voting to keep Roger Goodell," he said.
Goodell has been under fire since video emerged showing Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious with a punch Feb. 15 in Atlantic City's Revel Casino Hotel. Rice avoided trial by agreeing to a pretrial intervention program and was initially suspended from the NFL for two games. But after the video was made public, he was cut by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended by the league.
Goodell has insisted the league didn't see the violent images until they were released by TMZ. But a law enforcement official told The Associated Press he sent a version of the video to an NFL executive five months ago.
Asked by host Eric Scott about "the mess that is the NFL right now," Christie expressed dismay.
"It's sad," he said. "You know, there's just no excuse or rational for domestic violence."
Among the other issues he tackled Thursday:
— He said he'd welcome a return by Donald Trump to Atlantic City. Trump said this week that he'll be taking "a very serious look" at buying back Trump Entertainment Resorts after it declared bankruptcy, closed Trump Plaza, and threatened to close the Trump Taj Mahal. Later,Christie took issue with the way the recent spate of casino closures has been portrayed. "The demise of Atlantic City is significantly overplayed," he said.
— He said the state should revisit making the lieutenant governor serve as acting governor when he is out of state, saying he still is in charge when he travels — as he has often lately in his duties as chair of the Republican Governors Association. "It's not like I'm incommunicado," he said. "It's not like I need someone to get the Pony Express to bring me a message."
— He said his experiences traveling for the RGA would be a factor as he decides whether to run for president in 2016: "It gives me a window — just a window — into what that would be like and it gives my family a window into what that would be like."
— He said national Republicans are missing an opportunity by not getting more involved in Republican Jeff Bell's U.S. Senate campaign, noting polls have shown he is trailing Democratic incumbent Cory Booker by a smaller margin than many had expected.
— He said that, as he travels the country, he feels a deep dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama that is hurting Democratic candidates at every level. The president "is seen as more of a liability for his party at the moment than as an asset," said Christie, while noting that he continues to get requests for help.
— He criticized media coverage exploring possible conflicts of interest because the chairman of the State Investment Council, which oversees decisions on pension-fund investments, also volunteered for his campaign. Last week, the state AFL-CIO filed an ethics complaint on the subject. "One website pops something and you run around chasing it like lemmings," he told reporters. "Get your facts right and then you'll have something to write about."