OK, we get it. Chris Christie is overweight. Since taking office as the 55th governor of New Jersey in January 2010, he has been the punchline of every weight-related joke imaginable. From the kings of late-night comedy, this repartee is par for the course. But on PBS’s NewsHour and ABC’s The View, it looks out of place. As Christie takes the stage at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, 40 million eyes will be watching. Watch clips of the most cringeworthy banter about the governor’s frame.
Chris Matthews’s ‘Wide Tunnel’ Comment Starts a Trend
It was a quick statement, almost two years ago, but it marked an important a shift in the news commentator code of ethics, one that may have helped set the tone for coverage today. In a 2010 segment of his MSNBC show Hardball, Chris Matthews discusses the glory of late New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan with Lawrence O'Donnell. After O’Donnell finishes praising Moynihan, he cites a then-recent example of poor political judgment: Christie’s decision to build “another [commuter] tunnel” (a project since canceled). Matthews interrupts with a snarky—and pointless—gag: “Someone should tell the New Jersey governor, it’s going to be a wide tunnel. It will be very useful to some people.” The quip is not only unnecessary, but incredibly ironic, considering that Matthews begins the segment commending Moynihan’s integrity while in office, “he made a point of never attacking an opponent by personality.”
Mark Shields, David Brooks Get Chummy at Christie’s Expense
On Monday night’s episode of PBS’s NewsHour, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff recap the first day of the Republican National Convention. Although the hour is spent largely discussing Hurricane Isaac, in the final segment, which features Mark Shields and David Brooks, the hosts ask their two guests to discuss which speakers they look forward to watching. Brooks is serious with his answer, but Shields turns his into a joke: “The guy I’m not gonna take my eyes off is Chris Christie. Just another pretty face,” he jokes. “Anybody that has a weight problem just has to look at Chris Christie and say, ‘I am fascinated by this guy.’” The other three seem to enjoy the joke, giggling, as Brooks adds a jab of his own: “You literally can’t take your eyes off him.”
Ed Schultz Fumbles His ‘Hefty’ Jokes
In 2010, during one of Ed Schultz’s weekly Psycho Talk segments crudely titled “Battle of the Bulge” on his MSNBC show, Schultz criticizes what he calls Laura Ingraham’s “hefty endorsement” of Chris Christie on Glenn Beck’s show. The self-declared “lefty” host tears apart Ingraham’s comments that Christie could be the “anti-Obama” as “ridiculous” and refers to her as backing the governor’s “couch-potato lifestyle.” But it isn’t over. Schultz goes on to say that Ingraham’s naming Christie as a good nominee for president is absurd, claiming the governor makes the poor and middle class “pay for his fat-cat buddies to keep their living-high-on-the-hog lifestyle.” MSNBC has since axed Psycho Talk.
Joy Behar Takes a Cheap Shot
The May 2012 joke was seemingly off the cuff—a spur of the moment thought. As Barbara Walters concludes her wrap-up of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on ABC’s The View, a chuckling Joy Behar adds: “Of course Chris Christie was there [at the dinner]. There was a buffet.” It isn’t the first time the ladies have discussed the N.J. governor’s weight. In a debate this past September, Behar interrupted Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s statement that Christie “offers something that Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann do not” with “Yeah, Krispy Kremes.” Behar then continued, “I don’t think the country's ready for a fat president.” In typical View fashion, Walters vehemently disagreed: “I think that’s ridiculous, it has nothing to do with his brain.”
Martin Bashir: It’s a ‘Piece of Cake’
In this September 2011 MSNBC segment, Bashir seems almost as befuddled delivering the lines as we might be hearing them. In reference to Christie’s indecision on whether he will run for president, the generally levelheaded Bashir remarks that it is not as if the New Jersey governor has “pushed away from the table.” The allusions to food and weight continue with “If it’s such a piece of cake to walk into the White House next year, why doesn’t he do it?” Maybe, Bashir carries on, the reason Christie isn’t going for it is that President Obama won’t be that easy to “roll over.”
Chris Christie Fires Back
And just how does Christie feel about all of this? After almost three years of attacks on his weight, the New Jersey governor seems to have found his stride. In response to Joe Scarborough’s question Tuesday on Morning Joe, about whether the New York Post’s cover headline “Fat Chance” “stung,” Christie fires back, “I don’t let it sting, Joe.”