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. txan

    Obesity is a health issue. This Dr. is concerned about the governor's health and writes about it. What's wrong with this? Evidently quite a bit given the inane comments here.

    February 6, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  2. Edward

    I was going to make a nasty joke at Christie's expense. This article sure makes me think otherwise. I wish Mr. Christie great success with his effort to reduce his weight. I hope for his health and happiness; and that he remains a father and husband to those who love him so dearly.

    February 6, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  3. bankrupt1

    really. i don't think his weight is anybody's business but his. and personally i don't like the surgery idea.

    February 6, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  4. empresstrudy

    Remember when we all laughed at Senators who diagnosed Terry Shiavo through the television?

    February 6, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  5. Katie

    Good lord you people: "Obama's 3rd term"?? REALLY?? The man clearly wins two elections and you're ready to declare him some kind of dictator? What are you SO afraid of??! He's lowered YOUR tax rate, he gave YOUR children health care coverage, he hasn't STARTED any wars nor has he THREATENED to invade any other country, he's STABILIZED a very fragile economy left to him by a string of incompetent politicians who favored making money for their pet corporations & friends at the top of them (note here that I'm not just pinning it on the Republicans) and the recent blow-up about killing US citizens abroad with drones is a BUSH policy set in place many years ago, along with all the amendment busting/freedom shrinking Patriot Act rules BUSH set in place that enable the US government to spy on and detain ANY US citizen for no reason and torture him/her until he says anything they want him to say. So please tell me, folks – why are you SOOO afraid of President Obama after what went on from 2000 to 2008????

    February 6, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  6. Ronnie Jackson

    Lynda I love how you change your name like 4 times to spat the same rhetoric.

    February 6, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  7. One L

    Mr. Christie – concentrate on fresh fruits and more importantly, vegetables and ean protein!!! PLEASE!!!

    February 6, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  8. doctorjosh

    I don't quite understand how some of the comments here have shifted to be about anything other than a discussion of the health risks related to obesity. This isn't a chance to talk about partisan politics, or gun control, or drones, or anything other than the number one public health crisis facing America (and much of the rest of the developed world). Significant health issues for a potential president are a very big deal. Beyond that, I think Dr. Mariano's point about Gov. Christie being able to set an example was a really good one. Chris Christie seems to be interested in at least trying to do some real good, and I think this is a nice opportunity.

    Also, just so I've gotten it out there, fixing the obesity problem isn't as simple as telling people to eat less and exercise more. If it were that easy, it wouldn't be a problem at all. To those who would take that position, I would counter that the problem of obesity is too important for the discussion to be poisoned by glibness. A real and productive discourse begins with the recognition of the complexities inherent in the situation.

    Have a great day, all!

    February 6, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  9. Alec

    Here's the real question: where do you find the time to lose weight as president, much less governor!? I can only imagine Christie sitting at a desk for twelve hours a day, doing paperwork and munching the occassional jelly cookie.

    February 6, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. Rosslaw

    Is Christie one of Karl Rove's approved candidates?

    February 6, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  11. Robert

    Amazing, CNN was abe to find a doctor who would cast doubt on potential GOP candidate.

    Did the same MD comment on the fragility of Hillary or the less than healul diet of Bill or the cigarette habit of Obama? If so it must have been cut for lack of space. CNN is as believable as FOX

    February 6, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  12. Grumpster

    To the nuts who think this is a liberal plan to put doubts into voters, WAKE UP already....do you see very many older fat people around? NO. There's a reason for that. Stop living in fantasyland and realize that if this guy doesn't change his ways, he'll join a whole lot of other tubby people who thought they'd live a full life by eating like a hog and doing nothing about it. Your rationale makes me thing Christie is a self-doubting closet liberal sabotaging his own run for office by eating like an elephant.

    February 6, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  13. wabina

    I was offended by David Letterman's interview with Christie. He was very disrespectful and all he did for about 20 min. was make fun of his weight. Christie was a good sport, but it had to be hurtful in front of the vast audience. I was hoping to hear some real issues discussed. His weight is his business, and I was surprised he went along with it. It is not as easy as just saying, "I guess I will lose some weight." If it was, no one would be overweight. There are many issues involved.

    February 6, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    He's too fat to run for POTUS? Is that the opinion? What if he were unusually tall? Would you still be saying that? No, right. Consider this, then. I'm sure that you've seen a number of overweight seniors. But, have you ever seen a really tall senior?

    February 6, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  15. bugmetoo

    Here goes CNN, already starting their next smear campaign!

    February 6, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  16. Sidb1980

    I don't care about his weight, but glad a doctor is, but as for POTUS options – No. Christie will not be in the forefront in 4 years. Rubio, Jindall and most likely someone we're not yet even aware of will step up and lead.

    February 6, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. Al-NY,NY


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

    no she doesn't but she has some idiotic idea that he's going to cancel the constitution and become supreme dictator. After all, he is a Kenyan soshulist and not a real 'Murkin

    February 6, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  18. JD

    How many heart surgeries did Bleaney have when he was VP and you're worried about Christie who is younger and in better health? Give me a break. Tax payers are still paying for Cheney's medical care!

    February 6, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  19. BOB

    if a man can't control is own body how can he run a office . don't tell me he has no control hit yourself with a hammer and see how quick you can control it .

    February 6, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    bugmetoo wrote:

    Here goes CNN, already starting their next smear campaign!
    If you believe that, then you really don't understand the subtle nuances of politics and publicity. There are several other issues and topics that could be used to smear Christie. They're all right there in his record. This "smear campaign", as you cal it, is a messaging trap that conservatives have used to beat liberals like a drum. It's called the "false victim card." Build up a narrative of criticism against you that is completely unfair to held against you, when in fact it is a real issue that has some substance.

    Christie's weight is becoming everyone's favorite joke. Some say Christie's acceptance of the jokes are some sort of a defense mechanism against guilt, but leave that for another day. When Christie critics start raising the issue of his weight, suddenly his obesity becomes an object of affection, the part that people like the best about the guy. His weight will not only become a non-issue, but it will become a most politically incorrect issue to criticize him about.

    February 6, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  21. ST

    @ Rudy NYC
    Here I can try to answer your questions. Being tall has nothing to do with the health of anyone. Being obesity has. There are a lot of diseases which go along with obesity BUT not being tall. Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol. All these are killer diseases. People are worried of Christie becoming POTUS because the work is not a joke. Adding with his obesity which will come along with diseases, he can not survive even two years in Office.

    February 6, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  22. Rudy NYC



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

    no she doesn't but she has some idiotic idea that he's going to cancel the constitution and become supreme dictator. After all, he is a Kenyan soshulist and not a real 'Murkin
    I've been warning y'all about that growing conspiracy for weeks and months now. Haven't I? It all plays into the "Obama must be stopped" narrative that's been raging for the last couple of years. If you listen to right wing radio you can hear ads to donate money to web sites dedicated to "stopping Obama's 3rd term."

    February 6, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  23. Malory Archer


    Remember when we all laughed at Senators who diagnosed Terry Shiavo through the television?


    Yes. However, I fail to see your equivalency between senators diagnosing someone's mental competency and a top physician warning of a serious, potentially life-threatening medical issue. Can you clarify?

    February 6, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  24. Malory Archer


    Here's the real question: where do you find the time to lose weight as president, much less governor!? I can only imagine Christie sitting at a desk for twelve hours a day, doing paperwork and munching the occassional jelly cookie.


    Nobody should sit for twelve hours at a time. That's an invitation to medical issues. A 20-minute routine in that 12-hour period would work wonders on physical wellbeing and relieve a lot of stress that accompanies the job.

    February 6, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  25. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    His weight is a laughing matter. If he dies in office the joke would be on him. Then we could finally raise the minimum wage and tax the rich.

    February 6, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
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