'You are not welcome in New Jersey': Gov. Phil Murphy slams Rep. Matt Gaetz over maskless GOP gala

Nicholas Katzban and Ricardo Kaulessar, NorthJersey.com

Gov. Phil Murphy continued his sharp criticisms of so-called "knuckleheads" who fail to follow his limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings when he called out the New York Young Republican Club and its keynote speaker, Rep. Matt Gaetz, for hosting what appeared to be a gala devoid of face masks and social distancing.

The governor was reacting to photographs that made the rounds on the internet following the Thursday night gala at the Maritime Parc restaurant in Jersey City.

The photos showed attendees bunched closely together as they posed for photos, with no one wearing protective face coverings.

As Murphy excoriated the club and Gaetz (during his Friday COVID-19 briefing, he lobbed criticisms for what he framed as an invading threat.

"It is beyond the pale that anyone would willingly endanger people in another state, never mind their own," Murphy said, as he claimed the New York group "snuck into Jersey City" to hold their gala because no venue in their home state would host it.

But his sharpest tongue was reserved for Gaetz, referring to the Florida Republican as Matt "putz."

Murphy told the congressman, "You are not welcome in New Jersey and, frankly, I don't ever want you back in this state."

He punctuated his remarks on Gaetz, adding, "what a fool."

Gaetz, meanwhile, fired back on Twitter, telling Murphy he would regret his remarks when he moved to Florida "like the rest of New Jersey."

Maritime Parc was forced to shutter while local police investigate the matter, and until it submits a plan to comply with state mandates for capacity and the use of masks by patrons, according to a statement from Jersey City.

But Gavin Wax, president of the Republican club, said Friday that Maritime Parc had insisted his event follow state guidelines to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Maritime Parc in Jersey City as seen Dec. 4, 2020.
Maritime Parc in Jersey City as seen Dec. 4, 2020.

As of Dec. 1, Murphy's executive order limits indoor gatherings to 10 people. However, constitutionally protected gatherings for political activities are limited to 150 people or 25% of a room's capacity, with the lower number applying.

A spokesperson from the venue stated that Maritime Parc was in compliance of the reduced capacity, hosting the event in a room usually meant for upwards of 600, and that tables were spaced 6 feet apart and that guests were only served at their seats.

"We are aware that videos and photos have emerged on social media showing people in close proximity; we surmise this was at the end of the evening," the spokesperson stated.

The venue said it furnished the mayor's office with a full list of attendees, with contact information for each, to prove they were below capacity and that state police inspected the venue before the event to ensure compliance.

As a result of the incident, Maritime Parc said it has faced "death threats, calls to boycott and more coming in steadily."

Fighting back against the governor's public attacks, Wax stated it was unfortunate that Murphy appropriated Jewish culture by using a Yiddish term, "when [Murphy] is, in fact, acting like a schmuck."

Follow Nicholas Katzban on Twitter @nicholaskatzban

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Gov. Phil Murphy bashes Matt Gaetz after maskless GOP gala in NJ