David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official appointed by Governor Chris Christie, leveled a very serious accusation last Friday in a letter released by his lawyer. The letter claimed that “evidence exists … tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference.”
Although Wildstein claimed that "evidence exists" that Christie knew about the lane closures, the New York Times initially reported that Wildstein "had the evidence to prove it."
Christie's office is now highlighting an interview with Kate Zernike, the author of the New York Times story, in which she acknowledged that the initial report was inaccurate:
Schneider: This has become a major issue in and of itself – the initial report that said the Governor ‘knew.’ Did the Times get in wrong?
Kate Zernike: No, they had the news alert that went out said…I believe the exact words alert were ‘ex-ally says Governor lied about lane closings.’ Sorry, that ‘governor knew at the time about lane closings.’
Schneider: I’ll read the exact quote. That the governor knew about the closings when they were happening and that he – Wildstein – had the evidence to prove it.
Zernike: Right, that’s the lead of the story. I was talking about the news alert that went out, so in other words the blast that goes out by email. Two things the letter from Wildstein said. One is the governor knew about these lane closings in real time contrary to what he said in that two hour news conference and evidence exists to prove that. Second thing he said is the governor lied about me in that press conference and I have the evidence to prove that. So, yes that is wrong and we fixed it very quickly. It was up for 20 minutes.”
The public editor at the New York Times wrote in a column Monday that the "change was more than a nuance. Acknowledging that could have taken the form of a straightforward correction. The change also could have been explained in an editor’s note or could even have been acknowledged in a sentence in the body of the article."
Wildstein's accusation is still serious, and if evidence is produced proving that Christie knew that the lanes were closed as an act of political revenge, it will most likely end his political career. But so far that evidence hasn't been produced, and Wildstein, contrary to the Times's intial reporting, never even claimed to have it.