Guest Viewpoint

We live in a society where it is unacceptable to ridicule a candidate’s race or religion, but increasingly, a politician’s physical size is fair game. As politics have become increasingly mean-spirited, fat “jokes” have become more commonplace. Politicians such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and, yes, President Donald Trump, are subjected to mockery because of their weight.

Here’s what Democratic consultant James Carville had to say about our president earlier this year on a podcast.

“He’s a big fat loser, alright. This guy hasn’t seen his d--k since 1988 he’s so fat.”

Regular readers of this column know that I’m no fan of Trump. But, I find no humor in such remarks. And, yes, I realize that Trump has done much to coarsen public discourse during the last five years.

Still, criticize his ideas, his positions on issues, but not his belt size. Much the same can be said of the cutting remarks I’ve heard about Pritzker.

Commentary on an Illinois conservative website alternately refers to him as “Jelly Bean,” “Jelly Belly” and “Jelly Biscuit.”

Hey, I get it. You don’t like his stand on taxes or the pandemic, but what does his weight have to do with those issues? Nothing.

Unsuccessful legislative candidate Peter Breen suggested to me several months ago that the reason Pritzker wasn’t venturing out of Chicago more was because of his “co-morbidity.”

After a long pause, I responded.

“Are you saying he’s too fat?”

Breen responded in the affirmative.

Sorry, Peter, I’m not a fan of some of the governor’s positions, either. That said, he has been an engaged governor who works hard. He’s actively working and available—more than most of his recent predecessors. I’ve seen no indication that he is in any way impaired in doing his job.

So, talk about his fiscal policies, not his physical size.

Back when I supervised statehouse reporters in various states, I had a reporter in Trenton, N.J., who routinely referred to Christie as “Gov. Krispy Kreme” during our daily staff meetings.

I bit my tongue but wanted to ask a question.

“Do you realize how stupid and petty that makes you sound?”

In hindsight, I should have spoken up.

After more than 30 years of covering politicians, I can say that, usually, people who joke about obesity are folks who have never struggled with it themselves.

I know the struggle. At one point, I weighed 100 pounds more than I do today. Although I’m now at a healthy weight, I’m humble enough to realize that the recidivism rate on weight loss is frighteningly high. Over the past 33 years, my weight has yo-yo’ed more than a Duncan Butterfly. It’s a daily struggle.

Obesity isn’t a personal failing; it’s a disease.

Early in my career, I had a supervisor who continually ridiculed my weight and inferred that I and several other overweight reporters had no business in “his” newsroom.

He was not a nice person. But, he was the boss, and I just had to sit there and take it.

It always seemed to me that what I wrote, how I reported or how I otherwise conducted myself as an employee was fair game for him to judge. However, what business was it of his—or anyone else’s—about my suit size?

Well, citizens and voters are the boss of those politicians. Let’s evaluate them the way we would like to be judged. Let’s look at their performance, policies and positions and leave the measuring tape at home.

Editor’s note: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. He can be contacted at scottreeder1965@gmail.com.