Chris Christie's Chief Fat Critic Strikes Back

Michael Kinsley defends calling Christie "too fat" for the White House

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On Tuesday afternoon, Chris Christie put, as definitively as possible, an end to the speculation about his fitness for presidential candidate, but he also had a score to settle. In the run up to his press conference, while the grandees of the Republican Party were telling him he was the bee's knees, there were a lot of political pundits who dismissed his candidacy because of his weight. He told reporters, according to National Journal's Rebecca Kaplan:

The people who pretend to be serious commentators who wrote about this are among the most ignorant people I’ve ever heard in my life. To say that because you’re overweight, you are undisciplined, you know, I don’t think undisciplined people get to achieve great positions in our society. And so, you know, that kind of stuff is just ignorant and the people who wrote it are ignorant people. And, you know, at least comedians don’t pretend to be serious. Comedians, they’re comedians. That’s fine. Some of the people who wrote the stuff, in what pretend to be serious columns, they’re just jokes. What they do is, they further stigmatize people in a way that is really irrelevant to people’s ability to do a particular job.

There's little question about who Christie's most prominent fat critic was: that would be Bloomberg View columnist (and former editor-at-large of The Atlantic Wire) Michael Kinsley. He started his first column for the new opinion outlet definitively: "Look, I’m sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat."

For that, Kinsley isn't apologizing. "Christie is right that when you stigmatize behavior, you also of necessity stigmatize people who engage in it," Kinsley writes in an e-mail to The Atlantic Wire. "But as a conservative Republican, Christie is undoubtedly in favor of stigmatizing anti-social behavior even if he is sympathetic to the fellow human being engaged in it." He added, "People trying to lose weight, like people trying to kick any addiction, deserve not just sympathy but empathy. [But] in the case of presidential candidates--they put their characters 'in play.' So it's not true that looking grossly overweight has nothing to do with the job."

On the same day that Kinsley wrote, "Christie’s weight problem goes way past the issue of obesity itself. It is just a too-perfect symbol of our country at the moment, with appetites out of control and discipline near zilch," over at The Washington Post Eugene Robinson urged the governor to "eat a salad and take a walk.” Robinson did not respond to a request for comment. And for now, Christie's weight is a non-issue: he's withdrawn from the national spotlight and reporters can return to the peccadilloes of the GOP's actual presidential candidates.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.