TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a nationally televised interview Tuesday that criticism over his decision to use a state police helicopter to attend two of his son's baseball games and a political event would not prevent him from doing so again, but he would pay for the rides upfront.
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, the governor said he would make the same decision in using the month-old, $12.5 million helicopter but would pay for the ride on the front end to prevent any bad public perception.
Democrats have called for hearings to look into the Republican governor's personal use of the perk and have called Christie a hypocrite for wasteful spending.
Christie said in the interview that he reimbursed the state after using the helicopter to shuttle from the Statehouse to the ballpark because he thought it was important to let the public know he wasn't using the aircraft "as a perk of public office."
Morgan interviewed Christie at his home, at Livingston High School where Christie went to school, and at the Ritz Diner in Livingston. Morgan also spoke with Christie's son, Andrew, who said he was just happy to have his dad at the game.
A rising star in the Republican Party, Christie has turned down repeated pleas to run for president in 2012.
He said no one in the current field of GOP candidates for president has distinguished himself or herself enough for him to publicly back at this point.
"A lot of those folks impress me personally but none of them have emerged in my mind yet as the best option," Christie said. "I don't think any of them have yet distinguished themselves to say this is the best person, not only to take on Barack Obama but, more importantly, to lead our nation in the next four years after this election."
Morgan asked Christie's wife, Mary Pat, if her husband would make a great president, and she didn't hesitate in saying he would. She said her husband was the best communicator she knows.
Asked what he felt most guilty about, the heavy-set governor said it was his weight. Christie said he'd be much happier personally and for his children if he could get that under control.
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