Christie defends embrace of Cowboys over Lions

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a possible presidential candidate — defended his support for the Dallas Cowboys Monday after he was seen on national television Sunday hugging Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as the Cowboys defeated the Detroit Lions.

The Republican governor rooted for the Cowboys against the Lions in Sunday’s playoff game in Arlington, Texas, where Dallas won 24-20. The televised hug with Jones occurred after the Cowboys sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford with about 54 seconds left in the game, sealing a Dallas victory.

Many on social sites — including former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis — suggested at least tongue in cheek that Christie’s support for the Lions’ rival could cost him votes in Michigan — an early primary state in the 2016 presidential race. The expected Michigan GOP primary date is March 15, 2016.

“Just watched Christie cheer for the Dallas Cowboys on the last touchdown ... he’s OUT as a possible nominee :)” Anuzis wrote on Twitter.

Christie visited Michigan three times last year as he campaigned and raised funds for Gov. Rick Snyder’s re-election.

In a Monday radio interview on New York radio station WFAN, the New Jersey governor said he has been a longtime Cowboys fan and continues to root for non-New Jersey area teams, much to the ire of New Jersey residents.

“You are who you are as a fan,” he said. “Just because I am governor of New Jersey doesn’t mean I change who I root for.” He said he has rooted for the Cowboys for 43 years.

Christie said no one yelled at him when the Cowboys lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, which has many fans in southern New Jersey. “I’m not listening to any of these people who give me a hard time now that we’re having a little bit of success,” he told WFAN.

Asked if his support meant he had a better chance of carrying Texas in 2016, he joked: “I think our chances have improved.”

Christie also rejected criticism that the officials picking up a flag for pass interference on Dallas was a bad call, but said the refereeing could have been better.

“I don’t think that crew was a fabulous crew. ... I think there were a lot of bad calls that went on,” Christie said. “I think the better team won.”

Christie has been to five Cowboys games this year — and the team has won all of them. He said he hopes to go to Wisconsin to watch the Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers Sunday and said he would see Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisconsin — another possible presidential candidate — if he goes to the game.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com