The ex-governor appeared on CNN as reports emerged about the shooting of three college students in Burlington, Vermont, as they walked to a Thanksgiving dinner; reports indicated that the three were of Palestinian descent and were wearing traditional keffiyehs signaling their identities at the time of the shooting.
His rival for the 2024 GOP nomination, current frontrunner and former president Donald Trump, has long faced accusations of embracing the farthest-right wings of his party including white nationalists such as Nick Fuentes, who dined at Mar-a-Lago with the former president alongside Kanye West in 2022. Those critics who say he has not sought to distance himself from such figures first emerged in force after the Charlottesville riot in 2017, when white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters and a woman was killed when a neo-Nazi sympathiser hit her with a vehicle.
On Sunday, Mr Christie blamed his former ally for giving “permission” to racists and other forms of hatred in America by using intolerant language in public.
“Well, look, when you show intolerance towards everyone, which is what he does, you give permission, as a leader, for others to let their intolerance come out,” said Mr Christie.
“Intolerance towards anyone encourages intolerance towards everyone, and that’s what’s going on here,” added the governor.
Donald Trump's intolerant language and his intolerant conduct gives others permission to act the same.
Intolerance towards anyone encourages intolerance towards everyone. pic.twitter.com/75gtZfaJ9s
— Chris Christie (@GovChristie) November 26, 2023
Mr Trump eventually issued a “both sides” condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville after it occurred, however, he was ridiculed and attacked himself for asserting that there were "very fine people on both sides" of the clashes that day.
He would go on to face accusations of racism throughout his presidency. In early 2018, he was reported to have referred to the nations of Haiti and several African countries as “s***hole countries” during a White House meeting, provoking both anger and lawsuits against his administration. He also repeatedly referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus” in both public speeches and posts on his Twitter account, a label which was blamed for contributing to a sharp spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
In 2023, he also shared a post on Truth Social marking Rosh Hashanah that was criticised as antisemitic.
Mr Christie, who served as a debate preparation coach for the ex-president in both of his past two runs for the White House, has emerged as Mr Trump’s fiercest critic within the 2024 GOP field.
He has remained in the race as several other lower-performing Republicans have dropped out, including most recently Senator Tim Scott, but the former governor has thus far failed to break out as a leader in the pack of candidates vying for second place in the primary. Mr Trump continues to control the lion’s share of the GOP electorate, and registers support above 50 per cent of likely Republican primary voters in most polling.