PHILADELPHIA — Just over a year ago, Bridget Anne Kelly was thanking her boss, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and fellow staffers via Twitter for making her 40th birthday “great.” On Thursday, the account had been deleted, and the nation watched Christie call her a liar, dub her behavior “stupid,” and announce on national television that he had fired her.
Kelly, the woman behind some of the emails in a plot to gridlock the George Washington Bridge, was described Thursday by some as a cheery, intelligent mother of four — but with a “vindictive” side.
“She’s a 4-foot-9 perfectly pleasant soccer mom, but she could be a 6-foot-10 linebacker if she needed to,” said a Republican operative with knowledge of the governor’s inner circle, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation. “If you crossed her, she could be vindictive.”
As news broke Wednesday that she had typed the now-infamous “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” friends and colleagues asked themselves whether the Ramsey, N.J., resident was a sacrificial lamb or had a dark side.
On Thursday, before a swarm of news cameras, Christie announced Kelly’s firing.
Christie said that as a deputy chief of staff, Kelly did not have the authority to order lane closures at the bridge. “And so, if she acted in a manner which exceeded her authority, which seems, you know, to be a possibility, you know, that’s what she did.”
He also said he had instructed his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to withdraw from consideration for state party chairman and to cease consultant work with the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads.
“This is a Bridget-and-Bill thing,” the operative said. “They might have cooked it up in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Trenton or at a nice little dinner in Yardley, Pa.”
A longtime Republican official in Bergen County — who also did not want to be named — said Kelly had a reactive side “if she felt threatened.”
There were instances, he said, when she would block volunteers vying for political jobs from moving up. “If someone talked to her funny or didn’t give her the right amount of respect, she’d make a phone call and put the kibosh on it.” The official said that when he read the email, the language sounded a lot like Kelly.
But assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson, D-Bergen, was one of many Democrats who said he found “it hard to believe (Kelly) acted alone while in the shadow of the governor.”