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. aaron

    Christie is a Republican who appears to care about all his constituents, not just the rich ones. That will ruin the Repub Party image, so, of course, they start sabotaging him about his weight to make him look undesirable to voters. I'd sooner vote for a fat Christie then something like that lean Palin creature.

    February 6, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  2. James

    If I said it once, I've said it a hundred times, running for governor of little New Jersey is nothing compared to the grueling campaign running for President. The physical and mental toll will tax his health for sure. He will not run unless there is a drastic change in his diet and he loses considerable weight. I don't believe he has the discipline to do so but I hope I'm wrong for his own good.

    February 6, 2013 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  3. someguy

    Hopefully he gets serious and drops it. Politics aside, he's far too nice of a guy to keel over in a year due to a heart attack.

    February 6, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  4. Monkap

    What's the problem here? If Christie becomes president we can convert a C-130 cargo plane into Airforce One. 😉

    February 6, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  5. Angela Birch

    No one is legislating people's weight. In fact legislating morality seems to be a GOP notions. The Gay thing the Abortion thing, the marriage thing. All that has happened on the dem side is a first lady who said "vegetables can be tasty" if you thing that is legislation you have no idea what legislation is.
    As for Christie, I would like to know where he stands on quite a few things. But I would really want to vet his VP candidate because a 600 pound president is unlikely to last till age 56. You can get away with weighing more when you are younger but once you hit your 50s it is just much too dangerous.

    February 6, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  6. Tracy

    fat is where it is at!....lol

    February 6, 2013 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  7. GO_GOP

    We all need to start praying for this good man (Christie). Everything can be solved through prayers ( as well documented in leading scientific journals) and it will also help him keep healthy.

    February 6, 2013 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  8. North Dallas Don

    Skinny people die too.

    February 6, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  9. patch vader

    Doctors did not speak up about Reagan's alzheimers, so why the concern now?

    February 6, 2013 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  10. marie

    if he should get the office he cannot do anything for the country if he is a stroke victim or is dead!

    February 6, 2013 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  11. Smokey

    A sudden weight change can be just as dangerous to one's health as carrying excess weight, you need to do that stuff gradually, naturally, over a long period of time. Those sudden fluctuations can mess up your hormones and endocrine system, your enzymes and junk, I seen it happen to people before.

    February 6, 2013 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  12. Mike Kelley

    Not to worry... I'm sure the liberal agenda will pass a nanny law outlawing obesity.

    February 6, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |

    Why is there anyone talking about a third term for Obama? Thought we had term limits to save us from bad presidents and that it was 2 terms? I think our former Governor Rounds of South Dakota would make a great President.

    February 6, 2013 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  14. W.

    I really like Gov. Christie, I think he's a pretty tough but cool dude. I think anyone who takes on the mantle of leadership has certain responsibilities to the public and as such sets examples of character and presentable images. I think he should drop a more than a few pounds, maybe not to the level that makes him look like a middle weight contender. I do think he is carrying around another guy on his back and that is not good for the heart and vascular system. If he ran for President or was in a high office with great stress it could present some issues that could imperil his life. In my state, Gov. Richardson was overweight and he said that he was making an effort to reduce it: no evidence that it was working. Fitness is a real issue when you are in the public arena and both image and condition are realistic. I hope that he gets fit and we see him more in the future. He's a good guy, so lose some weight man, be healthy. Good luck.

    February 6, 2013 04:53 am at 4:53 am |
  15. orlop

    Forget dying in office, how about getting stuck in the White House bathtub. Didn't that happen before?

    February 6, 2013 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  16. Zenith

    Obesity is a health issue, not a moral issue.

    February 6, 2013 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  17. Quixote

    Put the stress of running for office on that enlarged cholestorol choked heart......

    As gov of NJ he does not have to do much miost of the time. The Democrats running the legislature do most of the work. They just have to find ways to keep him from wrecking the state most of the time.

    February 6, 2013 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  18. shawn L

    Oh give me a freaking break. So he's fat. We have put geezers in the whitehouse, 60 and 70 year olds have been president and nobody said, "Hey he's too old because he might die in office." Ronald Reagan was 77 when he left office and had alzheimers. John Mccain would have been 76 after his first term.

    February 6, 2013 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  19. FredinVicksburg

    Some people are naturally heavy. There are other factors that affect a person's health. William Howard Taft was a heavyweight. After serving as president, he went on be become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He passed away at the age of 72 in 1930. Grover Cleveland lived to be 71, passing away 11 years after leaving office.

    February 6, 2013 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  20. sick of republican phonies

    As a NJ resident, I'm more worried about the fat between his ears.
    This is NOT an intelligent man- he mispronounced "pundit" as "pundint" for several years- and although he has been able to connect with many "average Joes" because he seems simplistic and talks like a dock worker in a bar, I wouldn't want to see him have to deal with the issues that confront a president. We tried a stupid guy as president with G W Bush- look how THAT worked out.

    February 6, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  21. Anonymous

    I feel that instead of concentrating on his health- people should concentrate on what he can do for the country- Even obama could have a heart attack or stroke- I had a stroke at 31 when I weighed 130 pounds and was a marathoner/triathlete and very fit. I also have had heart issues sonce the age of 25 so to judge by his weight is wrong. Sure he should lose weight but not because of fear if he was president he could drop dead. Anything cn happen to anyone at any time regardless of weight.

    February 6, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  22. Donna

    I'm more worried about Obama killing the country over the next 4 years.

    February 6, 2013 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  23. Harleigh Kiffer

    CNN begin the media campaign against any possible Christie campaign for President in 2016 and continues their visible support for Ms. Clinton's 2016 campaign.

    February 6, 2013 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  24. jimbo0117

    @Linda – you do realize that the POTUS is limited to two terms by the constitution, right?

    February 6, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  25. NornanDee

    My concern about the weight issue is the loss to his family. My husband had a tremendous weight loss a couple of years ago after a medical incident and is now off all meds. He has maintained it for over a year. It was tough but his health was worth it. I hope for his family and friends that he is able to do something. Voters always have somebody who wants an office but his family has one husband/father/friend. I wish him the best in addressing his weight as it is extremely difficult, but it is worth it....I did a big loss 25 years ago and am glad to have addrssed it.

    February 6, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
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