PATERSON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie dodged reporters Tuesday at a press event in Paterson, N.J., when he was asked about ordering a member of his cabinet to pass a fitness test within 90 days.
Air Force Brigadier General Michael Cunniff is the head of New Jersey’s National Guard. He was appointed by Christie in 2012. Last year, he was reprimanded by the Pentagon for his weight and for skipping fitness tests, according to a report by the Washington Post.
“Gov. Christie was not informed of this issue by Gen. Cunniff until last week and the governor has expressed directly to the General that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said. “The governor has directed General Cunniff to meet his obligations in the next 90 days.”
Such a statement may strike as hypocrisy, after Christie was repeatedly questioned about his own physical fitness during his first term as governor. But a former Army Major with the New Jersey National Guard told PIX11 News that any soldier who cannot pass the military’s fitness exam would normally be fired on the spot.
“If he lacks the decisiveness to take action here in the New Jersey National Guard, there is no way he can possibly handle the larger military,” said Major Michael Bobinis, who said he was fired for trying to raise a red flag on problems within the National Guard.
“Gen. Cunniff and his subordinate have a history of punishing people who come forward as whistleblowers,” he said.
Criticism of Christie’s command over the National Guard does not end here. Several high-ranking officers have reportedly filed complaints with the Inspector General claiming that cronyism and discrimination is running rampant throughout the ranks. New Jersey’s Division of Equal Employment Opportunity is investigating, while a State Assembly panel plans to hold hearings in the coming months.