New Jersey Republican governor and straggling 2016 presidential hopeful Chris Christie faces a call to resign after he declared Sunday that teachers' unions are "the single most destructive force in public education in America" and deserve to be punched in the face.
Christie made the comments on CNN's State of the Union program with host Jack Tapper, who asked: "At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?"
Christie responded: "Oh the national teachers union," referring specifically to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
"They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members," Christie continued. "And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But I’m never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes."
This is not the first time Christie has attracted attention and scorn for verbally clashing with educators and labeling union leaders "political thugs." Moreover, he has vigorously attacked teachers' benefits and protections in New Jersey, and opposed the labor movement more broadly.
Randi Weingarten—president of the AFT, which represents over 1.6 million people across the country—responded to Christie's statement on Monday by declaring: "Chris Christie has issues—from reneging on his promise to fix pensions to his state’s fiscal standing facing near junk bond status. But the biggest issue is he’s a bully and has anger management problems."
"That he would threaten to punch teachers in the face—mostly women seeking to help children meet their potential and achieve their dreams—promotes a culture of violence and underscores why he lacks the temperament and emotional skills to be president, or serve in any leadership capacity," continued Weingarten, who has come under criticism from some rank-and-file members for endorsing "one percenter" candidate Hillary Clinton.
Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, declared on Sunday that Christie "should resign as governor immediately," denouncing him as "a terrible role model to the children that our members work so hard to protect, nurture and educate. "
"Chris Christie’s instinct is always to threaten, bully, and intimidate instead of build consensus and show true leadership," Steinhauer said. "That's not news in New Jersey."