Trump’s ‘intolerance towards everyone’ encourages hate, Chris Christie says

<span>Photograph: Sean Rayford/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s “intolerance towards everyone” encourages antisemitism and Islamophobia in the US amid tensions over the war between Israel and Hamas, said Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

“When you show intolerance towards everyone – which is what he does – you give permission as a leader for others to have their intolerance come out,” Christie told CNN on Sunday.

“Intolerance towards anyone encourages intolerance towards everyone. And that’s exactly what’s going on here.”

Like the rest of the Republican field, Christie lags far behind Trump in national and key state polling.

Christie endorsed Trump in 2016 and supported him throughout his subsequent presidency. The ex-New Jersey governor remained supportive of Trump even after Trump appeared to have given him Covid-19, sending him into intensive care.

But Christie turned against the former president over his election subversion and incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress.

Now a rare candidate willing to attack Trump, particularly over his 91 criminal charges and assorted civil trials, Christie has nonetheless only really registered in polling in New Hampshire, the second state to vote – and then only to scrape third place, 30 points behind.

Speaking on Sunday, Christie was asked about a recent New York Times piece in which he was quoted as saying he did not think “Trump’s an antisemite” – even though he has often used stereotypes most say qualify for that label.

For instance, in a 1991 book, a former staffer wrote that Trump said: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

Trump denied saying that.

To the New York Times, Christie said Trump’s “intolerance of everybody” had “contributed to” surging bigotry across the US.

“He says what he says, without regard to the fact that he’s perceived as a leader and that his words matter,” Christie said. This, he said, meant bigots “think you’re giving them permission be a bigot and that’s even worse than them thinking you are one”.

On Sunday, Christie also said Trump was now not the only leader giving followers an excuse to show bigoted behaviour, pointing to tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in US colleges.

“University administrators and presidents … have been unwilling to stand up against antisemitism on their campuses,” Christie said.

“There should be no campus in this country where a Jewish student is afraid to leave their dorm, a Jewish student is afraid to go to their classes, a Jewish student is afraid to go to even have a meal in the dining hall. I mean, that is outrageous, and it’s wrong.

“And so in the end … I think that there have been a lot of people contributed to it. And I believe Donald Trump’s intolerant language and his intolerant conduct gives others permission to act the same way.”