Time magazine’s fat obsession misses the point

November 8, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) at his election night party in Asbury Park on Nov. 5. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is fat.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the worst-kept secrets in America.

Voters in New Jersey are well aware of it, dating to at least 2009, when then-Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat who was up for reelection, ran a campaign ad saying that Christie, the Republican challenger, “threw his weight around” to avoid traffic tickets. (Corzine lost that election.)

The nation has long known of Christie’s weight problem, even as he has been mentioned as a GOP presidential contender. Last year, Oprah Winfrey questioned him about it in an interview on her OWN network.

Late night talk show hosts have incessantly used Christie as fodder for fat jokes. And earlier this year, Christie tried to show that he had a sense of humor about being the target of such jokes when he ate a doughnut on “The Late Show” as David Letterman interviewed him.

Meanwhile, as many people with presidential aspirations have done before, Christie has embarked on an effort to lose weight, undergoing Lap-Band surgery in February. Christie’s medical report, released in October, said: “He is aware of being overweight and has taken several measures to address this issue. He has adopted a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet and regular cardiovascular exercise.”

The report also said he has “been losing weight steadily” since undergoing the Lap-Band surgery.

Although Christie has not made public details of exactly how much weight he has lost, he does appear to be significantly lighter.

Yet this week, after Christie easily won reelection as governor, Time magazine couldn’t resist a cover, showing  Christie’s profile with the words “The Elephant in the Room.”

That has brought snickers from some.

It has also brought cries of cruelty.

Christie is tough enough to withstand being called an elephant by a national news magazine. He has used tough language himself, calling some residents and some members of the media “idiots” at various times. He doesn’t need me or anyone else to protect him from name-callers.

But the Time magazine cover diverts attention from significant political considerations to a mere discussion of Christie’s weight. The article inside the magazine (and behind the paywall on the Web site) addresses these points. It says:

In a blue state, he got 61% of the vote for governor on Nov. 5. Exit polls had him winning 21% of blacks and 51% of Latinos. As a pro-life man running against a pro-choice woman, he won women by 15 points. He won 32% of Democrats, 86% of conservatives and 31% of liberals. He won so completely that in the final weeks, Democrats jockeyed to appear with him in public, and nearly two dozen Democratic mayors endorsed him. The last time Barack Obama came to New Jersey, Christie won him a stuffed bear at the Jersey Shore and Obama would not be seen in public with Christie’s hapless opponent Barbara Buono.

The article describes Christie’s visit the day after the election to Union City, N.J., where the mayor is a Democrat and 85 percent of the population is Latino.

But how many people will actually read the article? Most people will once again focus simply on the New Jersey governor’s weight.

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Natalie Jennings | November 8, 2013