Gov. Chris Christie’s latest appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” not only proved the man can bust a move and take a joke. It also provided an opportunity for the potential Republican presidential contender to put the traffic scandal in his rear-view mirror.
Christie poked fun at himself and the George Washington Bridge furor on Thursday night during his first late-night TV appearance since the story that has cast a cloud over his 2016 White House prospects broke several months ago.
Wearing a polo shirt and pleated, high-waisted khakis, he swiveled his ample hips and threw up his hands as he and Fallon demonstrated dorky, middle-aged dance moves in a comedy bit called “The Evolution of Dad Dancing.”
When Fallon began to show off a move called the “This Bridge Is Closed,” the governor pretended to walk off the stage in a huff.
Later on the program, Christie joked that as bad as the lane-closing scandal has been, the dance performance was far more humiliating to his family “because I actually did that.”
Within minutes, videos of the appearance were flying around the Internet. The website Gawker chided Christie for dancing “like a buffoon that makes you want to scrub your eyes with bleach.” Business Insider said the video would “blow your mind.”
If it looked unpresidential to some viewers, the Christie camp didn’t seem to be worried.
The governor’s office eagerly promoted the appearance, sending out a news release to reporters Friday that read, “The Gov & Fallon Dance, Dish, And All Around Embarrass The Kids on The Tonight Show.”
Mike DuHaime, who has served as the governor’s campaign strategist, said it showed off Christie as a “down-to-earth” guy with the ability to have fun. He rejected any suggestion the footage could come back to haunt Christie if he decides to run.
“I think the fact that he has got a sense of humor, I think people appreciate that,” DuHaime said. “I think he was out there enjoying it, and if somebody wants to attack his dancing for political reasons, so be it. I’m not too worried about that.”
The appearance brought Christie full circle in a way: He initially made a joke out of the traffic story, then took it seriously when it was learned that some of those around him engineered the gridlock last September in an apparent act of political payback. He has denied any role in the scheme.
If Christie does run for president, he will join the list of White House candidates and victors who showed they could lighten up on TV.
President Barack Obama has “slow-jammed” the news on Fallon’s show; candidate Bill Clinton donned dark sunglasses and played the saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in 1992; Vice President Al Gore put on goggles and smashed an ashtray with a hammer on David Letterman’s show in 1993; and Richard Nixon uttered “Sock it to me” on “Laugh-In” before the 1968 election.