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It was the presidential pot calling the kettle black.
Capping a week in which weight formally entered the nation’s political discourse, a weight-challenged President Donald Trump on Thursday fat-shamed a man in the crowd at a New Hampshire rally, practically suggesting the dude get himself to the nearest gym. What made the moment ironic was that just days earlier, Trump himself was ridiculed by a Democratic presidential opponent for being a lumpy wreck of a commander-in-chief.
Fat Week 2019 started off this past Saturday at the Iowa State Fair, a presidential-hopeful honeypot and a bastion of bad-food choices that the fair’s PR team calls “Food on a Stick.” The fairgrounds are one of those places where political candidates meet with voters while chewing on an “Apple Pie on a Stick,” a “Bologna on a Stick” or a “Monkey Tail,” whatever that is. It was against this gastronomic backdrop that presidential candidate Andrew Yang decided to go after Trump’s cholesterol-clogged jugular.
“I can’t be eating crap on the trail too often, because I need to stay in presidential form,” Yang said, adding that nobody wants “a president who doesn’t seem like they can run a mile.”
“I don’t think Donald Trump could run a mile,” he added. “Would you guys enjoy trying to watch Donald Trump run a mile? That’d be hysterical. What does that guy weigh, like, 280 or something?”
Yang was off by 37 pounds. At Trump’s annual physical in February, the president weighed in at 243 pounds, up four from a year ago, but who’s counting?
(Actually, Forbes magazine was counting, pointing out that Trump’s weight and his 6-foot-3 frame give him a “body mass index (BMI) of 30.4,” which is just a pinch over the definition of obesity.)
Despite Trump’s handlers’ insistence at the time that their boss was the picture of good health, Yang decided to go low in the Hawkeye State anyway, attacking a guy who once described his presidential exercise regimen as “I walk, I this, I that.”
Any presidential historian could tell you that Trump is no William Howard Taft. The 27th president of the United States, of course, stood 6 feet tall and weighed more than 350 pounds at the end of his term.
On the other hand, the president does seem to have a bit of an obsession with the out-of-shape. Remember the 2016 presidential debate when Trump questioned the intelligence community’s finding that Russia was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers? Sure, he said, it could have been the Russians. Then again, he added, “it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
By the beginning of the week, Yang’s comments had infused the campaign-trail zeitgeist with a Falstaffian undertone. For all we know, Yang’s fat-shaming may have stuck in Trump’s craw, prompting the president to also go low Thursday when he lashed out at someone he thought had been heckling him during the rally at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena. There was some doubt about the identity of the man Trump singled out for having a “serious weight problem.” One reporter said Trump in his excitement may have erroneously attacked not a protester but one of his own supporters, noting that people ejected from the rally were actually “thin.”
“Go home,” Trump said, singling out a protester being escorted from the venue by security. “Start exercising.”
As the crowd cheered and laughed, Trump continued: “Get him out of here, please. Got a bigger problem than I do. Got a bigger problem than all of us.”
And with that, from the hallowed halls of academia in Manchester to the food stands in Des Moines serving up Bacon Wrapped Pig Wings and Berkshire Bacon Balls, you could almost hear the fat lady sing.
On the political trail, a new hot-button issue emerges: Fat-shaming