Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says in a new national television ad that he regrets not wearing a mask while visiting the White House earlier this year, a choice he acknowledges led to him contracting the coronavirus and spending a week in the ICU.
“This message isn’t for everyone. It’s for all those people who refuse to wear a mask. You know lying in isolation in ICU for seven days I thought about how wrong I was to remove my mask at the White House,” Christie says in the ad. “Today, I think about how wrong it is to let mask wearing divide us, especially as we now know you’re twice as likely to get Covid-19 if you don’t wear a mask. Because if you don’t do the right thing, we could all end up on the wrong side of history. Please wear a mask.”
The ad was paid for by the COVID Collaborative, a coalition of public health, education and economic experts helping develop best practices to support state and local leaders in their efforts to end the pandemic, which was co-founded by New Jersey philanthropist Ray Chambers. His foundation, the MCJ Amelior Foundation, is one of the collaborative’s six sponsors, along with the Skoll Foundation, Allstate Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Pure Edge and the Walton Family Foundation.
Over the summer and fall, Christie’s firm, Christie 55 Solutions, lobbied for coronavirus aid on behalf of several New Jersey hospital systems, including Hackensack Meridian Health, according to lobbying disclosures. Chambers sits on the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine’s board of governors. The school is a joint venture between Seton Hall University and Hackensack Meridian Health.
The ad will appear on television over the next two weeks, with spots set to air on Fox News Channel, Newsmax and SiriusXM Radio.
Christie, who suffers from asthma, had checked himself into a hospital with Covid-19 in October, a few days after preparing President Donald Trump for his first presidential debate of the election at the White House.
Christie, a longtime Trump supporter, was among a group of senior campaign staffers who were tested after the President’s positive diagnosis, which had led to Trump being hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Christie was also at the White House Rose Garden ceremony announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court – an event where many guests were seen not wearing masks nor practicing social distancing. The event has subsequently been labeled by some public health experts as a “superspreader” event, given that a dozen attendees disclosed that they had contracted Covid-19 in the days after the ceremony.
The former New Jersey governor has previously said he regrets not wearing a mask, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that mask wearing is not a “partisan or cultural symbol.”
He wrote that he let his guard down during debate prep with Trump, where he said earlier this month that “no one was wearing masks.”
“I mistook the bubble of security around the President for a viral safe zone. I was wrong. There is no safe zone from this virus,” Christie wrote.
After Trump’s hospitalization, masks at campaign rallies were not required and supporters were often seen crowded together.
At any events at the White House in recent months – including an Election Day party and more recent holiday parties – social distancing and mask wearing has been part of guidelines, but those protocols have often gone unobserved.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story stated that Ray Chambers’ family foundation paid for the ad. His foundation is one of six sponsors of the COVID Collaborative, which is paying for the ad and which Chambers co-founded.