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The mayor of the New Jersey town embroiled in the scandal over the improper closing of bridge lanes says he believes Gov. Chris Christie (R) when he says he knew nothing about it.

“I take him at his word,” said Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Christie’s public image and status as a 2016 presidential front-runner took a hit last week, when documents revealed that top aides deliberately closed portions of the George Washington Bridge as political retribution.

Christie said in a press conference he knew nothing of the matter and fired a top aide when he learned of it. On Thursday, he traveled to Fort Lee to meet with Sokolich and those affected by the improper September closure of several lanes on one of the busiest bridges in the world. There, Christie reiterated what he had said in public, which is that he “unconditionally expressed he had absolutely no knowledge,” according to Sokolich.

The mayor said he takes Christie at his word but also acknowledged he had some doubts.

“I’ve always understood the governor always ran a very, very tight ship,” he said. “It’s a difficult pill to swallow.”

Known for his tough approach toward taking on opponents, Christie dismissed charges he was a bully during a lengthy Thursday press conference. Sokolich disagreed.

“I would take issue with that [claim],” he said. “He’s certainly tough; he’s certainly hard; he’s certainly strict. Whether it rises to bully, I’ll leave that to your judgment, but he is tough.

“A lot of this, I think, he brought on himself,” he added.