New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t let go of his spat with Washington Post columnist and MSNBC commentator Eugene Robinson. In an appearance this morning on the cable network’s “Morning Joe,” Christie accepted praise from the show’s co-host Mika Brzezinski for having opened up to Oprah regarding his much-discussed struggle with heft.
Christie expressed his appreciation for the kind words and then — presto! — threw in some obligatory Robinson-thrashing:
“It wasn’t hard for me, Mika. . . . The fact is, she asked me questions, I answered them, and I told the truth, and I told people how I feel. It is a struggle . . . and I hope that other people in the country understand and I appreciate what you all have been doing when ignoramuses like Eugene Robinson get on your show and start saying the stuff that they say about weight, that someone should have a salad and take a walk. . . . As far as I’m concerned, guys like that shouldn’t have a platform to speak, they’re so ignorant.”
As the segment ended, MSNBCers mildly sided with Christie in his denunciations of Robinson, a discouraging spectacle.
The bit about Robinson-as-ignoramus stems from a widely read piece back in September in which the columnist frames the governor’s weight as a serious issue:
You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice. Obesity is a national epidemic whose costs are measured not just in dollars and cents but also in lives. Christie’s weight is as legitimate an issue as the smoking habit that President Obama says he has finally kicked.
Tacked onto the column is a conclusion that supplies its only moment of levity:
Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell him why. Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk.
That advice came just as the media was stoking the non-story of whether Christie would enter the Republican presidential race. He said “no” many times before ultimately saying “no” for 50 minutes in 50 different ways at a press conference. In that session, Christie made it clear that late-night comedians were free to joke about his girth:
For me, their job is to be funny and if one of the things they want to make fun of is my weight, then, you know, it’s fair game, I’m a public figure; all I care about it is that they actually are funny — so that I can at least laugh about it when they’re mocking me.
The takeaway here seems to be that it’s fine to address Christie’s weight so long as you do it in a way that’s entertaining to the governor himself. That way, the attention enhances his stature as a fun-loving, thick-skinned politico.
Yet yet yet! Christie, at the same time, seems to concede that his size does indeed represent a wider issue. That’s what he suggested when he referenced “other people in the country” in his chat with Brzezinski. And he speaks in somber tones about the question in the interview below, with Oprah.
So what’s his problem with Robinson? Just that he threw in a kicker line about proper nutrition and exercise? That he’s too serious about the weight thing? Not serious enough?
Robinson is wondering as well. He writes in an e-mail: “My column, which I stand by, said that obesity is a problem and that diet and exercise are part of the solution. If Gov. Christie disagrees, I wonder who’s the ignoramus?”