So a guy came by the office the other day. I'll call him Bill. Bill was accompanied by an established journalist that several Gawker staffers know. Bill had something he wanted to show us, and the journalist was making an introduction. What he wanted to show us: Chris Christie and several unidentified males having sex with a woman, on tape.
I was actually out sick on the day in question. Around 2 p.m., I got an IM from Gawker deputy editor Max Read:
[Gawker senior writer Hamilton Nolan] has got these two guys int he conference room right now
one who used to be w/ [redacted]
and they have what looks to be a chris christie sex tape
I got dressed and went into work.
When I arrived, Bill was still there, but the journalist who'd brought him in had left. Bill opened up his laptop and showed me a Microsoft Word document into which he had pasted hundreds of photos of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's face, positioned next to what looked like stills from a pornographic film. The photos were arranged so that the face of a male participant in that film was placed directly adjacent to cropped images of Christie's face, with the angles of the two faces roughly matching. There were close-ups, too: The two mens' ears side-by-side, and zoomed-in photos of what appeared to be moles on the cheeks of both men. The upshot: The man in the pornographic film looked a lot like Christie. The ears, the chins, the eyes, the hair. A lot.
The man in the film was much, much thinner than Christie is now. But Bill's Microsoft Word document also included photographs of Christie as a younger, much thinner man. His physique back then seemed compatible with the man in the porn stills.
After showing me the stills, Bill told me a story. Roughly a year ago, he said, he was doing some research on the mob. Just out of personal interest. During the course of this research, he read somewhere that some mob families would occasionally initiate new members by forcing them to engage in acts of group sex (generally multiple male partners on one woman), and filming them. The idea, I guess, is a "team building" exercise that could also serve as a convenient blackmail tool if the need for leverage were to arise.
In any event, after reading about this practice, Bill Googled "mob gangbang initiation." As he scrolled through the search results, he told me, he came across a pornographic video—a 17-minute edit of a longer film. It featured four men engaging in sex acts with one woman. And there, in the background, flitting across a screen that was filled with close-up shots of various organs, was a face he recognized. Chris Christie's face.
It was at this point that Bill showed me the video. Just snippets, dancing around from frame to frame to show me the optimal angles to support his claim that I was looking at a video, found on the internet, of Chris Christie participating in a youthful gangbang.
Bill's theory: Christie has mob ties. No one seems to have covered them too intensively, but Christie's uncle's brother is Tino Fiumara, a high-powered member of the Genovese crime family who has served 25 years in prison over the years. The New York Times reported in 2009 that Christie had visited Fiumara in a Texas prison in 1991. And as a local freeholder in New Jersey, Christie played a role in delivering a $29.5 million construction contract to a firm whose principal owner had been investigated by state and federal authorities for ties to organized crime. There were dots, and no one was connecting them to Bill's satisfaction. And this video that looked like Chris Christie in a mob-initiation gangbang was another dot.
I was...skeptical. Most reporters are familiar with people like Bill. He isn't a journalist, nor does he pretend to be. He had come across something that he thought was a huge story—not just this tape, but the public references to Christie's relationships to mob figures that he thought were insufficiently explored—and became obsessed with it. He found it difficult to assimilate any new data into this frame he had developed unless it tended to further his thesis.
By the time he arrived at Gawker, he had been pushing and working with this story for a year. Fairly obvious, reasonable questions—for instance: by what rational narrative can we place someone with Chris Christie's ambitions and background at the scene of the filming of a gangbang porn shoot?—were dismissed with supposition. It was obviously a mob initiation. The mob runs the porn business. Think about it.
The thing about Bill's story is, I wasn't alone in posing these questions. Before he came to Gawker, he had spent months working with reporters at the New York Times, Mother Jones, a national broadcast network news division that I've agreed not to name, and a major weekly newspaper that I've also agreed not to name, running down with various degrees of rigor the provenance of this video. A Mother Jones reporter had sought the expertise of a facial recognition specialist. A New York Times reporter, Bill told me, had tracked down and purchased the full, 78-minute film—it's called Sloppy Seconds Vol. V—from which the edit Bill found was drawn. The national network news division had, Bill told me, dispatched a reporter to Texas in a vain effort to locate one of the men they believed appeared in the tape.
I didn't know all of this while Bill was in the Gawker offices, but I did know that it certainly looked like Chris Christie. Bill had a proposal: If I agreed to publish a piece that he had written outlining the publicly available information about Christie's mob ties, for which he would be paid, he would give me access to the movie and hand over any leads he had developed in identifying the people in it. For even the slimmest chance at landing a genuine Chris Christie sex tape, it would be worth it. It seemed stupid not to try.
Things fell apart rather quickly. Bill sent me his story, which was...passable. Worst case scenario, I could make sure everything in it was an accurate and publish it at 3 o'clock on a Sunday morning. But it was when he came back to the office to tell me how to access the full film that I lost the modicum of provisional trust I had placed in him: He mentioned, for the first time, that the national broadcast network news division's reporters had told him that it was someone other than Christie, a porn actor named Tom Byron. I raised an eyebrow. Bill protested immediately that the network's reporters were wrong, that it was clearly not Byron. At the end of the day, I'm convinced as well that whoever is in the video isn't Byron. But it was the kind of information that I expect someone to be upfront with. The fact that Bill concealed it until we were down the road a ways raised alarms. So I told Bill I needed to think it over. He left, but not before telling me where I could find the full film online.
It's here. According to the site that sells it, the film was produced by Mike Hott, and stars performers named Dick Nasty, Pantrixxx, and Karena.
For the Christie theory to work, the film had to be produced in the early 1980s. By the late 1980s, Christie's weight gain puts him outside the realm of possibility for the relatively fit guy on the screen. And Christie started as an undergraduate at the University of Delaware in 1980, married in 1986, and graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1987. Maybe it's conceivable that a drunken, mobbed-up Christie could be persuaded to do some freelance porn as a college student. (This is New Jersey we're talking about, after all.) But as someone about to embark on a legal career? Nope. After 1987, there's just no way.
So when I fired up Sloppy Seconds V, the absurdity of the whole story became blindingly obvious before anyone got fully naked: The first woman in the video—there are three women, all told, two of whom get attention from "Christie"—is wearing tight-fitting, low-rise hip-hugger jeans that nobody, not even porn actresses, wore in the early 1980s. When she takes off her top, she reveals pierced nipples and a pierced navel with sorority-girl bangle that wasn't in fashion in the 1980s. I was born in 1973, and watched my share of pornography produced in the 1980s. This woman was clearly filmed in the 1990s or later.
A call to the film's distributor, who relayed questions via email to Mike Hott himself, confirmed my suspicions:
You have my permission to respond to him. I would appreciate if you would respond to him from your email address. Please inform this person from Gawker that NO it is NOT Chris Christie.
I asked a follow-up question seeking clarification on where and when it was shot:
Yes, shot in 2000 in Los Angeles. Thanks.
Of course, people can lie, especially if they want to protect the reputation of a sitting governor of New Jersey who happened to have performed pornography as a youth in order to satisfy his mob patrons. So I also ran it by Mike South, the "gonzo king of porn gossip," to see if he could peg a decade. His emailed response:
OK here's my thoughts:
I would put this video as shot in the mid to late 1990s on VHS
Here's my reasoning: The girl is shaved. Thats a real rarity in the '80s but more telling is the guys are close trimmed—that was a mid-to-late Nineties thing.
The girl's panties go straight across her waist. The '80s style was to wear them in the more of a v shape higher on the waist. The straight across thing was '90s.
The style is for sure '90s amateur, shot on an inexpensive consumer-grade VHS camera.
Most important, Cyberspace Adult Video Reviews lists the first four films in the Sloppy Seconds series as having been created in the late 1990s and 2000. Dick Nasty, one of the identified male leads according to the site selling the video, first became active in porn in 1990.
I told Bill that I was convinced that what we had was a run-of-the-mill porn movie featuring a guy that looks comically like Chris Christie. I told him that our deal was off, because he had obviously been keeping information from me that would have tended to reinforce my doubts from the outset. And I told him that I still wanted to run a post on the film, both because I found it amusing to run images of what Chris Christie would look like in a gangbang porn film and because I love the idea of reporters for the New York Times, Mother Jones, and the other news organizations I agreed not to mention spending months in an effort to find out if Chris Christie did indeed star in a gangbang porn film. (I confirmed independently that the Times and Mother Jones had indeed been involved in running this film down with Bill. At no point did either institution actually became convinced that the guy in the video wasn't Christie; they just petered out.)
I offered Bill a little bit of money as a finders's fee for his trouble. He initially accepted, but later told me he didn't want any part of a "joke" post about a non-Chris Christie sex tape.
Anyway, this is what it would look like if Chris Christie ever got into the porn business. In case you were wondering.
[Gif by Jim Cooke; research assistance by staff writer J.K. Trotter, who was tasked with watching the entirety of Sloppy Seconds Vol. V because nobody else would. Video editing by Tim Burke.]