Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday strongly defended his decision to have flags lowered to half-staff on Saturday for Whitney Houston, saying he rejects criticism that she “forfeited the good things that she did” because of her struggles with substance abuse.
“What I would say to everybody is there but for the grace of God go I,” he said.
The Republican governor said his office has been receiving emails and other messages disparaging Houston and attacking his decision to have flags flown at half-staff at state government buildings Saturday, the day of her funeral in the Newark church where she sang in the choir as a child.
The governor said he was not saying that Houston, who was born in Newark and was raised in nearby East Orange, is a role model. Instead, he said, Houston deserves the honor because of her huge cultural impact and as “a daughter of New Jersey.”
“I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise — and we don’t know what is the cause of her death yet — but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she’s forfeited the good things that she did in her life,” said the governor during a briefing in northern New Jersey. “I just reject that on a human level.”
The governor noted he has ordered flags flown at half-staff for all 31 fallen New Jersey soldiers and every fallen police officer during his time in office.
He also ordered flags lowered last year for Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
In Newark, residents were irritated to hear of criticism of the governor’s decision to honor Houston, who acknowledged her drug abuse in interviews.
Yeah let us honor Whitney! I’m with the Governor!