Phil Murphy was clearly ready today when asked about last week’s protest by a group of Assembly Republicans.
He said the real story is not about statehouse security, but about the “idiocy of these ringleaders,” who put the health of others at risk.
He called that behavior “outrageous, absolutely outrageous” and said it was unforgivable.
The episode in question involved Republicans protesting Statehouse rules requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or to take an immediate COVID test upon arrival.
With some GOP lawmakers refusing to comply last Thursday, State Police initially refused to allow them to enter the Assembly. That resulted in a standoff with troopers standing in the doorway and angry Republicans claiming “tyranny” and a loss of “liberty.”
Troopers eventually relented and as Assemblyman Brian Bergen of Denville (LD-25), put it, lawmakers just walked in.
When the session began – a few hours late – Speaker Craig Coughlin spoke of a colossal security failure. It was a bit unclear what he meant, although there have been reports of some State Police personnel being reassigned as a result of last week’s event.
This afternoon was the governor’s first briefing since the brouhaha.
The governor shut down any questions about the troopers’ response, saying he was not going to address security concerns publicly, although he said the New Jersey State Police are the best in the nation. Guess you can call that a vote of confidence.
State Police head Pat Callahan, who normally attends briefings, said only that troopers take security seriously and will continue to do so. A few them – including a supervising lieutenant – found themselves relocated out of Trenton following last week’s breach.
But what Murphy really wanted to do was condemn the actions of the Republican lawmakers.
Calling the protest completely irresponsible, the governor dismissed the notion it had anything to do with freedom or civil rights.
Some Republicans, meanwhile, see the whole thing as a success. They were, after all, allowed to enter the Assembly without complying with the vaccine/testing rules.
In fact, Assemblyman Jay Webber of Morris Plains (LD-26) took a victory lap of sorts, appearing with Jesse Waters on Fox News to complain about the “raw political power” of the left.