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5 Reasons Chris Christie Might Be Lying

Applying the techniques of lie detection to Christie's press conference yields some very interesting results.

Photo Credit: AFP


“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said during his press conference on Jan. 9 regarding the George Washington Bridge scandal. “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.” While he worked hard in the nearly two-hour press conference to dispel any rumors of his involvement, many have already noted that Christie’s speech was more remarkable for the questions it didn’t answer than for the ones it did.

Left looming is: How could a man like Christie not know that his deputy chief of staff ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge? And how does a former U.S. Attorney, with his eye on a 2016 presidential campaign, not ask follow-up questions when told the closures were a result of a traffic test?

How indeed?

Most people feel it’s relatively easy to spot a liar, and judging by the media coverage on this scandal, many people feel that Christie is lying, but without a smoking gun, i.e. damning emails or personal testimony from his staff or the Port Authority, it’s hard to prove.

But his press conference itself may offer some insights. In  “Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception,” author Pamela Meyer asserts that only when we step back from someone’s words to view the whole picture can we begin to see the combination of indicators that will help us successfully identify a liar. She writes:

After listening closely to the details of someone’s speech, take a mental step back to consider what the combination of his facial expressions, body language, and verbal clues says about his attitude toward being questioned. Attitude is a crucial indicator.

Is the subject interested in helping you solve a problem or answer a question? Is he forthright or evasive? How confidently does he speak? A deceptive person might be guarded and hesitant to firmly acknowledge or deny anything you suggest about his actions or behavior. A truthful person will cooperate from the start and will signal that he is on your side.

But what if that person is an expert at identifying liars? And what if that person knows how to look like he’s telling the truth? As a former lawyer, Christie would be a master at it. In his speech he went out of his way to make the listener feel he was just as surprised as anyone and that he was going to do everything in his power to get to the bottom of the lane closures. But closer examination of what he said and what he didn’t say offers a very different picture.

While liespotting isn’t an exact science, and there are always exceptions, knowing how to identify certain telltale behaviors can provide some very interesting clues. Below, five mistakes Christie made in his press conference that may be signs of less-than-truthful behavior.

1. Too much detail regarding unimportant issues. According to Meyer, a subject will often offer specific details that have nothing to do with the question of his guilt as a way of validating his claim of innocence. It’s as if the specificity will add credibility to what he’s about to tell you. However, when you listen closely, you’ll observe that the abundance of details does not lead to relevant information.

When explaining how he learned of the breach in his office regarding the bridge lane closures, Christie said that he finished his workout at 8:50 and received a call from his director of communication at 8:55. Then he said, “I found this out at 8:50 yesterday morning. By 9:00 this morning, Bridget Kelly was fired. By 7:00 yesterday evening, Bill Stepien was asked to leave my organization.”

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