ACLU likely to drop records lawsuit against NJ gov
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey on Monday said it will likely drop a lawsuit filed earlier in the day against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for records that confirm he met with the head of Fox News last year.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of a reporter for Gawker Entertainment LLC, saying the governor’s office had issued a blanket refusal to release any records pertaining to the meeting.
After the governor’s office confirmed the September 2010, meeting, the ACLU relented.
“We’re happy to see the matter resolved quickly but remain concerned that the governor’s office initially issued a blanket executive privilege claim in response to Gawker’s request for records,” said ACLU-NJ president Frank Corrado, who is representing Gawker reporter John Cook. “Is the governor’s office actually reviewing records requests from the public, or is it simply using executive privilege as a carte blanche to deny access to all correspondence with his office?”
Citing the state’s Open Public Records Law, the lawsuit sought all correspondence between the president of Fox News and the governor or his staff after a report that the head of the network tried to persuade the first-term GOP governor to run for president in 2012.
Fox News President Roger Ailes has denied urging the first-term GOP governor to run for president, but speculation continues over whether Christie would jump into the race, even though he has repeatedly said he will not.
Christie’s appearance Monday in Iowa at an education conference and a political fundraiser for a congressman did little to quell the presidential talk.
The governor’s office initially refused to confirm any records existed and said that, if they did, they would be exempt from state’s open records law based on “executive privilege” — intended to protect the governor and other elected officials from disclosing records that contain advice to them about their official public duties — as a reason to withhold records from the public.
But after the lawsuit was filed Monday, the governor’s office provided a redacted calendar entry confirming that Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, attended a private dinner on Sept. 11, 2010, in New York but declined to comment beyond the letter.
“Please be advised that this office is in possession of no other records responsive to your request,” Raymond Brandes, an attorney for the governor, said in a letter sent to the ACLU and Cook on Monday
A New York Magazine story in May reported that Ailes, like many others, tried to persuade Christie to run against President Barack Obama in 2012. Following that article, Gawker’s Cook filed the public records request.
Ailes, who helped to create Fox in 1996, is a former media consultant for Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“The public has a right to know whether the head of America’s most-watched cable news channel is advising a sitting governor on state matters,” Gawker’s Cook said in a statement.
Emails sent to Fox News seeking comment were not returned on Monday.