February 5th, 2013
04:14 PM ET
10 years ago

Former WH doc on Christie: 'I'm worried about this man dying in office'

Washington (CNN) – Potential 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie may be able to take the punch lines about his waistline. The popular New Jersey governor made light of his weight in an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" Monday night.

"I'm basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life," Christie joked.

But one medical expert on presidential health cautioned Christie's obesity is no laughing matter.

"I'm worried he may have a heart attack. I'm worried he may have a stroke," former White House physician Connie Mariano, M.D. said in an interview with CNN.

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And, in fact, Christie acknowledges as much as recently as Tuesday when asked about his Late Show appearance.

"I have been remarkably healthy. My doctor continues to warn me my luck is going to run out relatively soon. So, believe me, it is something that I am very conscious of," Christie said.

Mariano, who served nine years as a doctor in the White House medical unit said Christie's obesity would certainly become an issue should he run for the presidency in 2016. She warned a future President Christie could suffer from potentially deadly complications from diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease.

"It's almost a like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office," Mariano said.

During the 1990's, Mariano helped then-President Bill Clinton in his own struggles with losing weight. She recalled how Saturday Night Live once lampooned Mr. Clinton as an insatiable junk food addict, pounding Big Macs from McDonalds.

After Clinton stumbled on some steps and tore a quadriceps tendon, Mariano said she worked with the White House chef and a personal trainer to help the president lose nearly 30 pounds.

All of that explains why Mariano winced when she saw Christie munch on a donut while waiting for Letterman to ask a question to the delight of a studio audience Monday night. She said her words of caution should not be viewed through any partisan lens.

"I'm a Republican. I like Chris Christie. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight," Mariano said. "I'm a physician more than I'm a Democrat or Republican. And I'm worried about this man dying in office."

In Union, New Jersey Tuesday following a meeting with Hurricane Sandy victims, the 50 year old governor also told reporters he has a plan to get in shape.

"Be assured there is a plan. Whether it's successful or not, you'll all be able to notice," Christie said.

The governor shrugged off the notion that he is not taking his health seriously.

"The idea that somehow, you know, I don't care about this – of course I care about it. And I am making the best effort I can," Christie said.

Christie's office tweeted out the comments in a video link to the governor's followers on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Mariano said Christie could set a good example for the nation's growing population of obese children and teen-agers.

"He could actually save lives out there if he turned around and did something with his weight and became healthy," Mariano said.

After serving both Democratic and Republican presidents, Mariano said she is offering her medical advice to Christie in large part because he remains a strong potential contender for the White House.

"I'm dead serious," she said.

Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie
soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. AngryGregR

    This is the liberal media's attempt to plant doubts about this guy for 2016. What a disgrace. What if someone wrote a column about Oprah, and how her obesity and continuious yo yo dieting will likely lead to an early demise. People would be up in arms. Remember Bill stopping to grab a few egg Mcmuffins during his jog while campaining in 1992? Nothing was ever said. CNN clearly has an agenda to plant seeds about this guy, as they know he will be a real threat to the left in 2016.

    February 5, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  2. Mancy Grace

    This corpulent slob is a perfect example of everything wrong with the bloated and dying GOP. Gorging ceaselessly at the public trough while accusing the poor of taking from the government. Denying fact in a country where science, education and health care are increasingly available only to the wealthy. The enlarged, fat encased heart of the GOP is just barely pumping enough venom to sustain it's tea party. We'll know of it's demise by the sickening aroma.

    February 5, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  3. Huh?

    Maybe hire Jillian Micheals?

    February 5, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  4. Roboyd01

    A person's weight is their own problem and no one else's... unless they choose to run to office and represent people. If they represent the will of the people, then their health becomes the concern of everyone else. If they die, they are letting the people down. I am never one to tell people to lose weight. Not my business. But if Obama decided to take up BASE jumping and eating all McDonalds (ALA Spurlock) I'd be very upset as he would be handing the leadership of the country to Biden.

    February 5, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  5. Deborah Alfano

    This doctor is not worried about his physical weight but rather his political clout and weight.

    February 5, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  6. Bill

    Next we'll learn that Chris secretly smokes and that his risk of cancer makes him unfit for the presidency. Or that he is having extramarital affairs and the risk of a deadly STD makes him unfit for the presidency. Or maybe that he had a blood lot in his head and that makes home unfit for the presidency.

    February 5, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. wr

    Wow. THIS is the "issue" you people focus on? Pathetic.

    February 5, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. Smeagel4T

    Christie is no fool. Everyone can tell if he plans on running for president based on whether he loses weight. If he doesn't, he isn't planning to run. If he finds it too difficult to lose weight, then he won't run. Although it's a dismal statement about our political system, an over weight person won't win in the presidential race, and Christie is smart enough to know that. This is a completely non-partisan claim on my part. I told people in 2004 that Gore wasn't going to be running because he wasn't losing weight. Once we started having TV coverage of the candidates, there was no more electing of over weight people to the presidency.

    February 5, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. Gonzoinhouston

    Christie's blood tests will become the next birther craze. "why doesn't he release his cholesterol numbers? We demand the original test report! Look, the doctor's signature is FORGED!!!!"

    February 5, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. Joan Corcoran

    How humiliating to have a personal matter like body size discussed on national television! I continue to hope that the world will one day stop passing judgment on others. based on physical differences. We did it to the Indians. We did it to the immigrants, We did it to African Americans. We did it to handicapped people. Are obese Americans the next target?The opinion of those two women who were suggesting that Chris Christie isn't fit to be a presidential candidate because of his weight, smacks of discrimination. I wish Govenor Christie the determination to get as healthy as he can but, let him and his personal physician handle the details.

    February 5, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  11. bellarue

    Speaking as a Democrat, I have to say I do like the guy. He wouldn't be my first choice, but he certainly doesn't strike me as a right wing crazy. His concern shouldn't necessarily be dying of a heart attack or stroke. It should be having the heart attack or stroke and then lingering in a state of slow, incapacitating decline. Not a great way to go.

    February 5, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  12. Lorenza Beacham

    This story truly surprises me. Dr Mariano seems to have taken one look at Gov Christie over cable television (while lounging in her living room) and diagnosed him with some unknown tragic illness. Most competent physicians won't diagnose anything without expensive tests and a co-payment. Is she a "real" doctor?

    February 5, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. 66Biker

    As a diabetic who has ridden over 19,000 on my bicycle in the last 5 years in a valiant attempt to keep both my blood glucose levels and my weight down, I know how difficult it can be. But as I like to say, "it can be done, and it can be fun." I do it by riding my bicycle. I try to ride at least 10 to 15 miles a day, but I know people who do it by riding less. Riding 10 to 15 miles takes me an average of an hour and a half to two hours a day, and I do it almost every day. The only thing that keeps me off my bike for a day is seriously bad weather, otherwise I get out there and ride every day. Even if my ride for a given day takes place between midnight and 2:00 AM before I go to bed.

    The results are that I lost 85 pounds and my A1c test results have been in the normal range for the majority of the time since March of 2008. (An A1c test is a blood test to see how much glucose has adhered to the hemoglobin in your blood.) I still have some problems as a result of diabetes, but it isn't from a lack of control. More likely it is because by the time I was diagnosed, it was already in an advanced stage. Doctors don't tell you that you are diabetic until you can't reverse the complications, because they don't test you to see if you diabetic until they see symptoms that indicate that you might be, or you ask to be tested.

    So my advice to everyone now days is that regardless of your weight, your age, or whatever, ask your Doctor to check your blood at least once a year. Because finding out that you are diabetic after it's too late is not a very good plan. If your feet tingle or burn all the time, the time is NOW to ask your Doctor for an A1c test. Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy is not reversible. Once you damage your nerves, they're going to Stay damaged. And trust me on this, YOU WON'T LIKE IT.

    February 5, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  14. Honestly

    Oh please, Christie as president? They'd eat him alive during the primaries....

    Oh wait, maybe he does stand a chance.

    February 5, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  15. Vendella

    Even though I've always voted Democrat I would like to see him run. It could be a great national conversation and if he were to win I need the President to be in great shape. I think he gets that.

    February 5, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  16. sqeptiq

    I would love for one of the teatrolls to explain exactly the scenario they envision for Obama to have a third term. It's fascinating to hear about absurdist fantasies, but only if they maintain at least a tiny tether to reality. That's creative but otherwise it's just goofy

    February 5, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  17. T C

    He needs to lose weight just as Obama needs to quit smoking.

    February 5, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  18. Liberty Queen

    Hillary Clinton is overweight. Chris Christie is OBESE. BIG difference. Plus, Hillary is way smarter and way more experienced on the world stage than Chris. 'nuf said.

    February 5, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  19. Palette

    Lynda, exactly how many terms for president do you think Mr. Obama is going to run? I personally figure he's going for six but will probably have to settle for two. What are your thoughts?

    February 5, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  20. Mike

    I don't think Americans realize how serious the obesity epidemic really is. Ostensibly, there's some increased awareness, but Americans have become very sick with one third of us being overweight and another third obese, many of these people morbidly obese (like Chris Christie). I hope we can reverse this very dangerous medical condition.

    February 5, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  21. NameDGL

    Is America ready for a overweight Catholic?

    February 5, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  22. Palette

    Lynda, how many terms do you think Obama's gonna try for? I think 6, but he'll probably have to settle for two...

    February 5, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  23. bombastus

    Christie has rolled the dice and figures in 4 years the tea party will be history and some common sense Republicans will surface to take over with him leading the pack. But there is a point here. Voters are use to looking at trim, fit candidates and Christie is none of this. Our POTUS has to be healthy and on game 24-7. If he wants to be POTUS, he needs to drop 60 pounds or so and get in shape. But who wants to run against Hillary anyway?

    February 5, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  24. jdoe

    One-third of American adults are obese. Two-third are overweight. Christie is not the only one with a problem.

    February 5, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  25. dydem

    If he doesn't lose weight, He may need Obamacare!

    February 5, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
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