New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is no stranger to fat jokes. He takes them in stride and good humor, and even returns jokes at his own expense. When Hostess announced that it was filing for bankruptcy last year, he was asked at a press conference what he thought about the iconic company’s demise.
“Seriously, you’re not asking me about Hostess Twinkies, are you? I’m on Saturday Night Live enough,” Christie jokingly said. He continued with, “This is a set-up,” and “It’s bad for me to even say the word ‘Twinkie’ from behind this microphone,” and “Don’t go to Devil Dogs, don’t try it.”
Christie has said on numerous occasions that his weight has been a lifelong struggle. He told David Letterman on Monday that his weight is “fair game” for comedians and critics and that he is “basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life.” Letterman suggested to Christie to consider making that his campaign slogan [in the upcoming New Jersey gubernatorial race].
Christie informed Letterman that a recent medial exam showed that his blood-sugar and cholesterol levels are both within normal range, and proceeded to eat two jelly donuts on camera during the interview.
The next day, he addressed the issue with seriousness at a press conference in Union Beach, New Jersey.
“If you talk to anybody in this room who has struggled with their weight what they will tell you is that every month, every year there’s a plan, there’s a plan and so the idea that somehow I don’t care about this, of course I care about it and I’m making the best effort I can and sometimes I’m successful and other times I’m not and sometimes periods of great success are followed by periods of great failure.” (ABC)
He said that he is appreciative of the people in his state who are concerned about his health and his staff released the following video clip.
Is he trying to plant the seeds of reassurance to potential voters to dispel concerns about his health affecting his ability to serve as president? Christie has never released his medical records or revealed his weight. He suffered a severe asthma attack in the summer of 2011, but blamed it on heat rather than his weight.
All joking aside, however, an occurrence this week sent Christie over the edge. Former White House doctor Connie Mariano, M.D. did an ABC interview and said that Christie’s weight is not a joke. She made it clear that her comments were out of concern as a medical practitioner and are not politically motivated. She pointed out that she’s “actually a Republican.”
“It’s something we worry about at the White House constantly,” Mariano said. “He is at risk of a heart attack at that size, he could have sleep apnea, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes. And coming to the White House, which is a pressure cooker and there is more stress involved, long hours, lots of travel, which makes those things worse unless they were healthier.” (ABC)
Mariano pointed out that his weight will always be a concern and the issue will “constantly haunt him during the presidency and the rest of his life.”
“When you see somebody like that who may have a shortened life span because of their obesity, we are all compassionate towards him … there is no magic pill.”
Her concerns seem to be about whether or not Christie is healthy enough to serve a full presidential campaign.
“I’m worried he may have a heart attack. I’m worried he may have a stroke,” Mariano told CNN.
Her point if he doesn’t take aggressive steps to address his weight?:
“It’s almost a like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office.”
Mariano said that as a medical doctor, she would suggest that Christie “work closely with an eating disorder expert” who works with “emotional eaters who eat when they are happy, eat when they are stressed.” She said that whoever feeds the governor — including staff, family and trainers — should work to ensure that he has a “daily exercise regiment in the gym” and “a lot of walking.”
“I’ve always liked him,” Mariano said. “I like that he’s forthright, feisty, he connects with people … he’s down to earth, humble, he’s the American story we love … he makes fun of himself, but we don’t want him to die young.”
It’s her opinion that Christie could be the “poster child for all the other people in this country that are obese” and a role model for children and teens.
“If he can do it, I can do it too,” Mariano said in reference to how Americans might see Christie as a role model. “You could save a lot of lives that way.”
He could actually save lives out there if he turned around and did something with his weight and became healthy,” Mariano said. (ABC)
Christie, 50, didn’t appreciate her constructive criticism. On a visit to Sea Grit, a Hurricane Sandy affected shore town, the next day, he was asked about the comments.
“I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona — who’s never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records and knows nothing about my family history could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away,” Christie said. “She must be a genius. She should probably be the surgeon general of the United States, I suspect.”
This is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV,” Christie said. “And it’s completely irresponsible, completely irresponsible … my children saw that last night and she sat there on TV and said ‘I’m afraid he’s going to die in office.’ I have four children between nine and 19.”
Because he’s generally jovial about “fat jokes,” this may have been particularly disturbing to Christie because it was upsetting to his children. He reported that his 12-year-old son saw the CNN interview and asked him “Dad, are you going to die?” (Source)
“People who have a medical license, who have the privilege of having a medical license, should, in my view, conduct themselves more responsibly than that. If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I’ll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time she should shut up.” (Source)
The Arizona doctor defended her comments in a Bloomberg interview on Wednesday from her office, the Center for Executive Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“You don’t have to be a doctor to see that he is obese,” Mariano said today by telephone from her office, the Center for Executive Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I’m not a hack. If you look up my resume, I’ve been in the White House for nine years. I’m a retired Navy rear admiral. I’m board-certified in internal medicine.”
If there is anything to motivate most of us to try to be more healthy, it’s our children. As a chubby chick, I can say that. Like Christie, I also have a 12-year-old, and he told me this morning that he would like to help me make an exercise schedule. So I understand Governor Christie’s outrage at someone frightening his children, but this isn’t something he’s never heard on national television. It’s not a new joke at all.
Is he really concerned about his children hearing this, or is he hoping to stir outrage by mentioning his son’s fear? We all know that whether we like the politician or not, NO ONE likes anyone to bring kids into it the discussion. Though Dr. Mariano did not mention his children, Christie did. If he’s hoping to stir outrage by mentioning his son’s fear, why? Could it be that the fat jokes become less and less funny as he becomes more serious about a 2016 run?
Hey, if staying healthy for his children doesn’t motivate him, but a presidential possibility does, that’s awesome. Here’s to health! He’s not going to win in 2016, of course, but we’d all like to see a healthier Governor Christie.
I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me