Just four questions in, Christie called on William Brown, a 34-year-old law school student and veteran from Mt. Laurel, who explained, calmly at first: "I know that all my friends in the military no matter what state they're from respect that fact that I go to Rutgers. It's also true that none of my friends in the military no matter what state they're from have ever heard of Rowan."
Brown, a Democrat who ran an unsuccessfully for Assembly last year, says he's a Navy Seal who served in Iraq. As he testified before the Rutgers Board of Governors last month, he argued the Christie-sanctioned plan to rebrand the South Jersey campus under the Rowan name would rob students of opportunities afforded by Rutgers' reputation. The Republican governor began to explain that current students would still graduate with degrees from Rutgers.
But Brown shouted from audience: "What about my son? What about my neighbors? What about my friends?"
"Listen we're not going to get into a debate here, ok?" Christie said. "I listened to you. You're unhappy about it. You don't want Rutgers to merge with Rowan under any circumstances. Well here's what going to happen. Rutgers is going to merge with Rowan and here's why --"
"It's not a merger," Brown continued, still interrupting.
"I sat here and listened to your story and your position — excuse me — without interrupting you," Christie said, while Brown kept it up with: "It's not a story, it's the truth."
The exchange continued with Christie's amplified voice booming from the speakers and Brown yelling up at him from his seat in the back row of the fire hall.
"Do you want to hear the answer or no? Do you want to hear me answer or don't you? Because I'm not going to — I've heard you," Christie said, still with Brown interrupting. "OK, next question."
An audience clinging to every word dissolved into applause, following by a quintessential Christie sendoff: "Let me tell you something after you graduate from law school you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end is going to be thrown in jail, idiot."
"I'm a combat veteran Navy Seal, how's that?" Brown shouted back.