Chris Christie 9/11 Political Favours New Jersey New York
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the national teachers union deserved a 'punch in the face'. Reuters

New Jersey Governor and fledging Republican candidate Chris Christie made his feelings known about the national teachers union during an interview on CNN's State of the Union. The candidate said the union deserves a "punch in the face" and called it the "single most destructive force in public education."

CNN's Jake Tapper asked Christie who he would "punch in the face" at the national level. Christie quickly responded: "Oh the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election."

According to the Washington Post, the candidate was referring to the American Federation of Teachers, which is the second-largest teachers union.

Christie criticised the AFT for being "not for education for our children. They're for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But I'm never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes."

The Post reported that the New Jersey Republican has often fought with teachers unions, arguing against their pensions and health care benefits. Christie has called teachers unions "political thugs" and has had several public run-ins with teachers.

In a statement released on 3 August, AFT president Randi Weingarten criticised Christie for threatening violence against teachers.

"Chris Christie has issues — from reneging on his promise to fix pensions to his state's fiscal standing facing near junk bond status," Weingarten said. "But the biggest issue is he's a bully and has anger management problems. That he would threaten to punch teachers in the face — mostly women seeking to help children meet their potential and achieve their dreams — promotes a culture of violence and underscores why he lacks the temperament and emotional skills to be president, or serve in any leadership capacity. It's a sad day in the life of our nation to see a candidate threaten violence to gain political favor."

Despite polling towards the bottom of the GOP field, Christie was confident he would be present at the first GOP debate on 6 August. Only the top 10 candidates will be present in the Fox News hosted debate.