AUDIO: Chris Christie Apologizes For Suggesting Civil Rights Should Have Been Voted On

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has apologized for comments he made that the civil rights movement could have advanced with referenda instead of deadly protests, admitting, “I wasn’t clear enough. I absolutely wasn’t”:

CHRISTIE: I also recognize that my job, one of my jobs as Governor, is to clearly communicate to people what I’m thinking, every time I open my mouth. And I try to be very good about being very direct about what I say so that there’s no ambiguity but obviously when I was talking last week at the town hall meeting about the civil rights movement in the South, I wasn’t clear enough. I just wasn’t.

And what I did was, by saying those things, I left them open to misinterpretation and obviously there are some folks out there whose feelings I hurt or sensibilities I offended. And I apologize for that, because that’s my job. My job is to clearly communicate all the time. And so to those folks out there who were somehow offended or concerned about the ambiguity in my statement, I apologize for that because very clearly what I was trying to say, I said yesterday at the press conference about five or six times.

He did, however, defend calling those who compared him to segregationists as “numbnuts,” explaining that his mother used to use the term for him. “Maybe I should have said ‘stupid, out-of-line,'” he suggested, after asking, “What’s wrong with “numbnuts’?” In fact, Christie didn’t actually take back any of his comments, but merely tried to assuage those who were offended. Listen to it:

Christie’s remarks have triggered a strong backlash from African-American leaders, such as Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who suggested Christie “has not read his recent history books” and pointed out that “most of the governors…were outright segregationists.” Newark Mayor Cory Booker responded simply: “Frankly, I wouldn’t be where I am today” if states had voted on civil rights.

Meanwhile, five former New Jersey govenors, including Democrats Brendan Byrne and James Florio, have broken with Christie by endorsing marriage equality. “I think the climate is right on a basis of civil rights,” said Byrne, the oldest of the former Garden State governors. “I would ask that the Legislature pass it.” Former Govs. Jon Corzine and Jim McGreevey, both democrats, are on record as supporting marriage equality, as well as two Republicans, Tom Kean and Christie Todd.

(Fatima Najiy contributed to this post)