TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie got blistered online Monday after he was photographed sunning himself on a New Jersey beach that he had closed to the public over the Fourth of July weekend because of a government shutdown.
Commenters mocked the governor as selfish and arrogant and cracked wise about the sight of the heavyset Christie in a beach chair in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt. The photo soon found itself inserted into an Oval Office picture and scenes from “Planet of the Apes,” ”From Here to Eternity” and “The Sopranos.”
Christie defended his use of the beach, saying that he had previously announced his plans to vacation at the state-owned governor’s beach house and that the media had simply “caught a politician keeping his word.”
The deeply unpopular Republican was photographed Sunday by NJ.com at Island Beach State Park. He and his family had the sun and sand all to themselves.
"I didn't get any sun today," Christie told reporters at a news conference later in the day in Trenton. Then, when told of the photos, his spokesman told NJ.com that what the governor said was true because Christie was wearing a baseball hat.
Online, one user joked that Christie was promoting the state's whale-watching industry. Another shared video of a simulated tsunami, saying it was the aftermath of Christie jumping into the water.
Others likened the beach closing to the 2013 scheme by Christie allies to cause huge traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge. Some said Christie was trying to outdo President Donald Trump in low approval ratings.
"SON OF A BEACH," screamed London's Daily Mail.
Christie's lieutenant governor, who is running in November to succeed him, said Christie's beach time was "beyond words."
"If I were governor, I sure wouldn't be sitting on the beach if taxpayers didn't have access to state beaches," said Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagano.
Christie ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services over the holiday weekend — including parks, beaches and motor vehicle offices — in a stalemate over his demand that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield be overhauled so that the state can tap into the nonprofit insurer's surplus to finance drug treatment.
Christie, who is heading into his final six months in office with approval ratings at an abysmal 15 percent, made supporting the $34.7 billion state budget contingent on the overhaul.
Christie has blamed a top Democratic lawmaker for the shutdown, with the state plastering CLOSED signs at parks with Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto's picture and office phone number.
"That's the way it goes," Christie said Saturday about his family's use of the beach home. "Run for governor, and you can have the residence."
Later, after he was photographed on the beach, he sarcastically called it a "great bit of journalism."
"They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with, his wife and children and their friends," Christie said in an interview with the New York Fox TV station. "I am sure they will get a Pulitzer for this one."
Christie's ratings nosedived after three of his former allies were charged in the George Washington Bridge political revenge scandal, after he threw his support to Trump, and after his own presidential campaign fizzled.
In the past year, he was passed over for vice president, demoted as Trump's transition chairman, and denied a top-level administration post of his liking.
But Christie regularly says that the only time popularity counts is when you're running for something — and he's not. "I don't care," he said recently when asked about the fall in his ratings.
Among those affected by the shutdown were Cub Scouts forced to leave a state park campsite and people trying to obtain or renew motor vehicle documents.
Liberty State Park was closed, forcing the suspension of ticket sales and ferry service to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the two sites remained open.
Prisons, state police, state hospitals and New Jersey's bus and commuter railroad remain open. The vast majority of beaches are open as well, since most are controlled not by the state but by towns up and down New Jersey's 130 miles of coastline.
"Come and enjoy them," Christie tweeted Monday, "but use sunscreen and hydrate."
Associated Press writer Bruce Shipkowski contributed to this story.