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Christie lays the "canned questions" rap to rest

SPOTSWOOD, N.J. - A 12-year-old tells Gov. Christie he was unfairly busted at school for bullying because the "Jewish community" controls the school board.

SPOTSWOOD, N.J. - A 12-year-old tells Gov. Christie he was unfairly busted at school for bullying because the "Jewish community" controls the school board.

A woman who says she's the victim of a conspiracy asks the governor for a job.

And a retired teacher, who says she is a former teacher of the year, advises him not to change the tenure system or else teachers will have to have sex with their bosses to keep their jobs.

To which Christie responded, straight-faced: "I don't want teachers to have to sleep with the principal."

After a town-hall meeting this month in which a man accused the Christie camp of planting favorable questions, Wednesday's 24th town hall of the year at a run-down Knights of Columbus hall in a sleepy Middlesex County borough seemed to indicate otherwise.

Questions at Christie's town halls are generally more obsequious than bizarre - and the governor acknowledged as much at the end of the appearance.

"This was one of the most unusual town hall meetings I've ever had," Christie said. "The press who comes to all these things, they start to get bored because I often get a lot of the same questions. I do not want to hear from you [reporters] standing in the back that you were bored today."

The Republican governor began the town hall, attended by a few hundred people, by going over well-trod ground: why Democratic legislators need to end all payments to public employees for unused sick time.

A half-hour in, Christie opened the floor to questions. One woman said that she had worked for an education company that contracted with the state. After she blew the whistle on the company for allegedly stealing money, she said, state officials sent threatening e-mails and prevented her from getting nine other jobs she was offered.

So she asked the governor for a job. He demurred.

"I can't. I can't find you a job," he said.

Later, a woman who said she was a former teacher touched on a range of seemingly unrelated topics, from the use of golden retrievers for soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder to the conservative commentator Ann Coulter's threat to take away Christie's asthma inhaler if he didn't run for president.

Christie stopped her several times, asking her to state an actual question. She continued, speaking over the governor. Finally, Christie said: "I sat and listened to you ramble on about eight different topics and didn't once interrupt you. . . . You really have to not be so rude. Let me answer the question. That's what you came here for."

Her question dealt with Christie's plan to end the seniority-based system of tenure protections for teachers.

"You need tenure so teachers don't have to sleep with the principal to get what they want. That sounds terrible, but it happens," she said.

In the lead-up to the final question, Christie, as he always does, jokingly warned that the last person has a lot of pressure to use the audience's time wisely.

"If you ask a stupid question, you will hear an audible moan in the audience," he said.

The governor picked a 12-year-old boy from Springfield, Union County, who read a long statement relating how he got in trouble for bullying at school.

The boy then told Christie that he was punished because he is Hindu and his alleged victim is "from the Jewish community that controls the township of Springfield and its school board."

Christie didn't address the Jewish remark - and considering the length and confusing nature of the boy's speech, it is possible he didn't hear it.

The boy's father - who videotaped the gubernatorial encounter - provided copies of the speech to audience members before being escorted outside by Christie's staff.

But the governor did offer a lesson in diversity: "We've always been a place that's prided ourselves on the fact that everyone can come to this state and succeed and practice their faith in any way they see fit."

And, for that matter, say anything they see fit.