Reputation Management Expert Sees Trouble for Christie

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s public apology amid the scandal surrounding a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge was missing important elements key to repairing his political image, says Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business.

Paul Argenti

Paul Argenti is a professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business. (Photo courtesy of the Tuck School of Business)

“I think his career is in pretty deep danger,” says Argenti, who specializes in communications strategy and reputational management.

A Christie ally in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered bridge lanes closed in Fort Lee, N.J., allegedly in retaliation for the refusal of Fort Lee mayor to endorse Christie for governor.

Argenti says Christie needs to do more than apologize.

“The key is to admit mistakes, be as transparent as you possibly can, and talk about how the future is going to be different. He didn’t take those last two steps,” Argenti says.

Christie will have a lot of work to do if he is going to repair his reputation, and that is not where the man widely seen as a top Republican presidential candidate wants to be in 2014, Argenti says.

“It’s going to keep coming back, just like Freddy Krueger,” he says. “You’ll see lines at the George Washington Bridge in advertising—all over. There is just no way that this kind of a story is going to die.”

Hearings are under way in the New Jersey legislature, and the inspector general of the Port Authority is investigating. In addition, if emails involving a Christie aide and Port Authority officials, including one email that reads, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” are deemed to be a use of government resources for political purposes, it is potentially a criminal act.

“There is nothing he can do to button it up so it goes away,” Argenti says.