Is America ready for a fat president? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has spent plenty of time this week talking about his weight. He appeared on David Letterman's show, poking fun at himself and Letterman's obsession with Chris Christie fat jokes. Today Christie responded angrily to comments by Dr. Connie Mariano, a former White House doctor who says she fears that if Gov. Christie runs for president he "may die in office" if he doesn't lose weight. Gov. Christie lashed out, calling Mariano "another hack who wants five minutes on T.V." and that without examining the patient Mariano should "shut up."
There's no disputing that Chris Christie is obese, and Dr. Mariano stands on a mountain of evidence as to the health risks related to obesity, particularly for men. Gov. Christie talks openly about his struggles with weight; a lot. The fact that Christie continues to make it an issue means combined with his combative, often defensive Jersey style makes great theater.
But at what cost?
At some point, should Chris Christie decide to run for president, he will need to release his medical records. He told David Letterman that his health is good, other than his weight.
The greater issue is that obesity is the "last frontier" of discrimination. Somehow as a society we feel free to ridicule the obese, typically without consequence. For example, films like Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor rake in box office cash without little thought about body image and the messages for kids.
It's hard to picture late night comedians poking fun at a candidate's race or gender in the same way as their weight. The difference in Chris Christie's case is that as a public servant voters have a right to know about his health. That's no laughing matter.
Former Saturday Night Live star (and current senator) Al Franken once joked that the first Jewish president would have to be a five-star general. If Sen. Franken is right, what about an obese president in the T.V. and internet age? What does it say about how we view ourselves? Or each other?
Is America ready for an obese president? I would enjoy hearing from you and thank you for reading.