Chris Christie vs. Eugene Robinson's Fat Jokes

The Players: Chris Christie, the well-liked Governor of New Jersey Governor and possible VP pick who's also known for his weight struggles; Eugene Robinson, liberal columnist for The Washington Post who's known for writing about Christie's weight struggles.

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The Players: Chris Christie, the well-liked Governor of New Jersey Governor and possible VP pick who's also known for his weight struggles; Eugene Robinson, liberal columnist for The Washington Post who's known for writing about Christie's weight struggles.

The Opening Serve: Though Christie isn't running for President (and if you ask him, he doesn't seem to want the Vice President gig, either), made the NBC rounds this morning with visits to the Today show and Morning Joe to talk about taxes, Mitt Romney, defending Mitt Romney's taxes and then sort of-squashing rumors of a Romney/Christie ticket. Just as he was finishing up on Morning Joe, he closed with a jab at the left-leaning Robinson and questions about his much-talked about weight:

I hope that other people in the country understand ... 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. You know, As far as I’m concerned, guys like that shouldn’t have a platform to speak, because they’re so ignorant.

The Return Volley: Robinson responded in an email today to his paper's media blogger, Erik Wemple. "My column, which I stand by, said that obesity is a problem and that diet and exercise are part of the solution," wrote Robinson. "If Gov. Christie disagrees, I wonder who’s the ignoramus?” But Robinson's problems with Christie (and this obsession with the word "ignoramus") goes back a bit further to late September when Republicans were in a tizzy over Chris Christie's possible presidential run. On September 29 Robinson wrote a column entitled "Chris Christie's Big Problem" arguing, among other things that: "Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything ... Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk." He added:

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.

What They Say They're Fighting About: Chris Christie's weight, and possibly American obesity. Of course there's this idea of fat acceptance here, and whether or not Robinson's cheap shots were warranted. As Robinson points out, Chris Christie's weight, like Obama's smoking is fair game. Christie on the other hand thinks it works the opposite way. His argument is that there are many people in America overweight (a majority), ergo people like Robinson are ostracizing the public and can't empathize with most Americans.

What They're Really Fighting About: Politics. Usually it's the other way around and you have politicians turning food and health into a battlefield of political rancor where people choose sides like arugula (obviously a Democrat) versus sweets (Republican freedom!). What's really going on here is a beef about politics (and both Christie and Robinson are on very different ends of that) that's being glossed over by discussing Christie' weight. If you notice, Christie's quip is also a dig on the left forward-leaning MSNBC, after all they're letting an "ignoramus" like Robinson speak. Robinson on the other hand, hasn't been too shy in voicing his displeasure or rather, partaking in schadenfreude with Republicans not being thrilled with their seemingly inevitable nominee Mitt Romney-- who just so happens to Chris Christie's bromance of the moment.

Who's Winning Now: We'll give this one to Robinson, but that's not to say we're going to approve his attacks (there's definitely a nicer way to get his point across). As Erik Wemple points out, Christie isn't immune to fat jokes, and has gone on the record saying he'd being fine with his weight being discussed (as long as it's funny).  And that seems in line with the way Christie's public persona--a thick-skinned, possibly combative, honest guy who talks a big, possibly gruff game and isn't afraid to dish out as much as he's getting. Robinson also isn't the only one that's written about Chris Christie's weight. Today's interview is a slight shift in tone the Christie we do know, and he seems to be taking the easy way out (for now) by dismissing Robinson's opinions for blurry reasons and resorting to name-calling instead of taking Robinson's issues apart or simply pointing out that writing an insulting column about someone's weight isn't genuinely showing concern and nor does it the person insulted. Or Christie could just say he doesn't agree with Robinson's opinion because this sweeping fight with Robinson and obesity is really just a personal squabble about politics.

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