By Jill Colvin
LONDON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie canceled plans to talk with reporters in London on Tuesday after his comments on vaccinations sparked a political flap at home.
The Republican governor and likely presidential contender had originally been scheduled to address the media three times during the final day of his three-day trip to the United Kingdom. Instead, the availabilities vanished from his schedule, which included lunch with the chancellor of the exchequer and a visit to the famous Globe Theatre.
“Is there something you don’t understand about, ‘No questions?’” Christie snapped when a reporter asked whether he’d discussed the Islamic State group during his meetings with dignitaries during the visit to the Globe.
“We’re just not having press availability today,” his communications chief Maria Comella said when asked for an explanation.
Billed as an official trade mission, the trip doubled as a chance for Christie, a likely presidential contender, to broaden his foreign policy resume and build relationships with world leaders. But coverage of the trip has been dominated by remarks he made Monday after touring a pharmaceutical facility, that “parents need to have some measure of choice” when it comes to whether to vaccinate their children.
Christie’s office quickly backtracked, releasing a statement that declared that “with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated.” But the comments drew scorn, first across social media and later from medical professionals, newspaper editorial boards and national Democrats.
A measles outbreak centered in California has sickened more than 100 people, focusing attention on parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Trips to London have sometimes been problematic for Republican presidential contenders. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, angered officials here when he suggested that they weren’t prepared for the upcoming Olympic games. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal stirred controversy in January when he told a think tank audience that some countries allowed Muslims to establish autonomous “no-go zone” neighborhoods in cities where they govern by a harsh version of Islamic law. British Prime Minister David Cameron had called such assertions bunk.
Christie’s international travel, including the trip to the United Kingdom and past trips to Canada and Mexico, were paid for by Choose New Jersey, an economic development agency started after Christie became governor and funded by corporate donations.
State taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of the state troopers who make up Christie’s security detail. His administration has not released information on those costs. Choose New Jersey hasn’t returned calls seeking comment from the AP on how much they’re spending on Christie’s travel.
Taxpayers spent nearly $40,000 on security costs for Christie’s 2012 trip to Israel, according to documents released at the time to AP. Those costs covered Christie, his family and 13 delegates invited by the governor.