Giving advice is easy; accepting it, not so much. One day after Chris Christie downed a doughnut and joked that he's “the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life” on Monday night's edition of “The Late Show With David Letterman,” a medical expert on presidential health said the New Jersey governor's weight 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 said in an interview with Jim Acosta, CNN's national political correspondent regarding the GOP "heavyweight."
"It's almost like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office," Mariano stated before warning that “a future President Christie could suffer from potentially deadly complications from diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease.”
Mariano, who served nine years as a doctor in the White House medical unit, noted that Christie's obesity “would certainly become an issue should he run for the presidency in 2016.”
During the 1990s, the physician helped then-president Bill Clinton in his own struggle to lose weight. She recalled how “Saturday Night Live” once lampooned Clinton as an insatiable junk food addict who continuously downed Big Macs at McDonalds fast-food restaurants.
Clinton's weight came to the forefront when the Democratic president stumbled on some steps and tore a quadriceps tendon. Mariano said she then worked with the White House chef and a personal trainer to help the president lose almost 30 pounds.
As a result, Mariano winced when she saw Christie down a doughnut to the delight of a studio audience Monday night. She noted that her words of caution should not be viewed from a partisan perspective.
After serving both Democratic and Republican presidents, Mariano said she is offering her medical advice to Christie because he is a strong potential contender for the White House.
I'm a Republican. I like Chris Christie. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight. I'm a physician more than I'm a Democrat or Republican. And I'm worried about this man dying in office.
Mariano said there's another positive result if the governor loses enough weight to stay healthy.
If Christie is successful, he could provide a good example for the nation's growing population of obese children and teenagers, she noted.
"He could actually save lives out there if he turned around and did something with his weight and became healthy," Mariano said.
There are signs that Christie is beginning to take the situation seriously. On Tuesday in Union, New Jersey, after meeting with Hurricane Sandy victims, the 50-year-old governor told reporters he has a plan to get in shape.
"I have been remarkably healthy,” he said. “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.”
However, Christie had an angry response to Mariano's comments.
I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away. She must be a genius.
The governor also called the physician's remarks “completely irresponsible.”
My children, my 12-year-old son came up to me last night and said: “Dad, are you gonna die?”
“If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I will have a conversation with her about that,” Christie stated. “Until that time, she should shut up!”
As NewsBusters previously reported, Mariano's concern about Christie's health was part of the discussion on Monday's edition of ABC's “Good Morning America” program.
Somebody of that size, I would assume they have issues regarding their blood pressure, the blood sugar. So that puts them at high risk for stroke and heart attack.
Reporter Dan Harris noted that Christie's appearance on “Late Night” was “a brilliant sight gag” as the governor sat next to David Letterman, “who has repeatedly lampooned the governor for his weight and pulling out a donut.”
Harris added that if the Republican can "take some of the weight off and keep it off, he's going to have a great relatable story to tell out on the campaign trail."