Former Republican New Jersey Gov. and former presidential candidate Chris Christie called on Republicans to “renounce conspiracy-theorists and truth deniers” during a Thursday speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, part of an apparent dig at former President Donald Trump.
Christie gave his speech as part of the library’s “A Time For Choosing” speaker series, which has also featured former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pence, Pompeo and Christie are all considered likely to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2024, as are future speakers for the series, including former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.
Christie has floated a 2024 run, telling the Daily Caller News Foundation in December 2020 that he would decide on a 2024 campaign “without regard to anybody else who’s running.” After declining to run in 2012, he dropped out of the 2016 Republican primary following a sixth-place finish in New Hampshire. Friends of Christie told Axios in April he is “seriously considering” a 2024 run.
Despite supporting Trump after dropping out of the 2016 primaries, including briefly serving as his transition chief, Christie has since soured on the former president. During the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Christie said that Trump “caused this protest to occur,” and was “the only one who can make it stop.” (RELATED: ‘An Absurdity’: Chris Christie Unloads On Trump Team’s Legal Theory)
Christie saved some of his harshest words in the speech for “the extremists in our midst.”
“As Republicans, we need to free ourselves from the quicksand of endless grievances. We need to turn our attention to the future and stop wallowing in the past. We need to face the realities of the 2020 election and learn, not hide from them,” he said. “We need to renounce the conspiracy-theorists and the truth deniers, the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts.”
“How do we create a new era of American exceptionalism? And how does our party turn the page from our 2020 electoral defeat and move our country forward?” Christie asked.
Christie blamed “professional political operatives” for “telling Republican politicians to… pander to the lies and the liars. The lies are crazy but just nod and pretend to agree. Say as little as you can and get away and duck when the reporters come to follow up.”
Instead, he urged Republicans to “give our supporters facts that will help them put those fantasies to rest so everyone can focus with clear minds on the issues that really matter.”
“We need to learn to win, both as Republicans and as Americans,” Christie added.
Many consider the speech an apparent rebuke of Trump, who has remained active as GOP kingmaker, endorsing candidates in both open elections and in primaries against Republican members who voted to impeach him. Trump most recently endorsed Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming-based attorney who is running against one of his harshest intra-party critics, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney.
Trump is also considered a heavy favorite for the GOP’s 2024 nomination if he steps into the race. A June poll found that 59% of Republicans want him to play a major role in the future of the party, while 51% believe that he could still become president via state-level challenges to Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump has also repeatedly floated his candidacy, most recently agreeing with Fox News host Greg Gutfeld’s assessment that his 2024 candidacy’s biggest problem would be that he would “save CNN” from falling ratings.