(CNN) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday urged Republicans “to face the realities of the 2020 election and learn, not hide from them,” as he lobbed several thinly veiled criticisms at his one-time ally, former President Donald Trump.
“We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers. The ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts,” said Christie, speaking to an in-person audience at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. “We need to give our supporters facts that will help them put all those fantasies to rest.”
While the 59-year-old Republican stopped short of criticizing Trump by name, his critique of the GOP was clearly centered on the former President and his lies about the 2020 election.
“We need to quit wasting our time, our energy and our credibility on claims that won’t ever convince anyone of anything,” Christie said. “Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time and energy and credibility.”
He took another apparent shot at Trump by urging those gathered to not tie the party to one individual.
“No man, no woman, no matter what office they’ve held or wealth they’ve acquired, are worthy of blind faith or obedience,” Christie said. “We deserve much better than to be misled by those trying to acquire or hold on to power.”
Christie’s remarks come as he plots a political comeback, fashioning himself as a truth teller in his own party.
After his own, unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in 2016, Christie backed Trump, appearing at events for the eventual nominee and even speaking at the Republican National Convention on Trump’s behalf. Four years later, he advised Trump in his reelection campaign.
But following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, Christie distanced himself from the then-outgoing President. He said Trump’s role in fomenting the riot was an impeachable offense.
Christie spent a significant portion of his speech in California criticizing President Joe Biden and the Democratic agenda. But he warned that the GOP cannot win back power in Washington without ridding itself of its most extreme elements.
Christie called on Republicans to reject supporters of QAnon, White supremacists and those who believe in baseless claims of widespread election fraud.
“Slogans aren’t nearly going to be enough. The time for snappy platitudes is well past us. And so are the grievances and falsehoods that have been spewed to us, that have stalled our party,” he said.
He dismissed the idea that Republican candidates should accommodate these views in order to win votes.
“If timid acceptance is the price of admission, we’re not the party we’ve always been,” he said.