The strange tale of a Chris Christie video, the Montana governor’s race and a cured meat product

A few days ago, Christie joined Cameo, where users hire celebrities to create short personalized videos. He joined the ranks of political personalities such as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandoski and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Christie — a Republican — soon received a message from someone named Brad Ley, and it read: “Governor — huge fan (and so glad you’re doing better)! My buddy Greg (who is also a big fan!) has been working out of state the last few years & me and his family have been trying to get him to come home to N.J. Could you give him some encouragement?”

So, clad in a mustard yellow University of Delaware fleece, Christie made a 50-second video.

“Now, I understand you left New Jersey some time ago for work, and that happens sometimes. But Jersey never quite leaves you, does it? Now, think about everything we’ve got back here,” he begins, listing Taylor ham, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, the Jersey Shore, the boardwalks and “all that stuff back here that is waiting for you.”

“More than anything else, Mike and your whole family, they want you back here,” he adds. “So listen, we could do this the easy way or the hard way. You could come back voluntarily, or maybe they’ll send me out to get you. I don’t think that’s what you want, Greg.”

What Christie didn’t know is that Brad Ley was Brad Elkins, the campaign manager for Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, the Democratic candidate for governor of Montana. Cooney’s Republican opponent, Rep. Greg Gianforte, lived in New Jersey for years.

In other words, it was a setup.

Cooney tweeted out the Cameo, prompting a smattering of confusion and a surprising amount of debate about whether the cured meat product is called “Taylor ham” or “Taylor pork roll.”

What began on Cameo quickly became a Twitter war (well, skirmish).

Christie tweeted out an image of the Cameo order. “Shame on @CooneyforMT. Same to @DemGovs. I am doing Cameo to benefit a NJ charity that shelters & treats drug & alcohol addicted pregnant women & they send this misleading request and then push it out as a shot of @GregForMontana. I SUPPORT Greg Gianforte for Governor-absolutely!” he wrote.

The charity is the Center for Great Expectations, a New Jersey-based substance abuse and mental health center.

Cooney, seemingly eager to get on the Taylor ham/pork roll debate, tweeted back, “Governor, two things:

1. Always happy to contribute to a worthwhile and important cause

2. I look forward to one day laughing about this on the boardwalk over a Taylor ham (?)”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Governors Association mentioned the Cameo in a news release, saying, “Even former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie agrees — Greg Gianforte should go back to New Jersey.”

Christie didn’t respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, but he told NJ.com, “This is the kind of dirty underhanded stuff done by the DGA to exploit a charity that is caring for drug and alcohol addicted women and it should be repudiated immediately by all the leadership of the DGA.”

Cooney’s campaign communications director Ronja Abel, meanwhile, confirmed that Elkins, the campaign manager, purchased the cameo, and offered a statement: “🤷🏼‍♀️”

Christie isn’t the first to be duped on Cameo. Carole Baskin of “Tiger King” fame, for example, was hired to wish a happy birthday to Rolf Harris and to mention Jimmy Savile. Unbeknown to her, they are both notorious serial sexual predators.

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