Why N.J. Gov. Christie wants leader of national guard to lose weight

The New Jersey governor has given Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff 90 days to slim down.

(AP Photo/Mel Evans,file)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, and New Jersey Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, right, review troops during the New Jersey National Guard's annual Military Review in Sea Girt, N.J. in Sept. 2014. Gov. Chris Christie has given Cunniff, the leader of New Jersey's National Guard, 90 days to slim down and meet his obligations. The action comes after Christie's staff said that the governor had been unaware the general had been reprimanded by the Pentagon about his weight and for repeatedly dodging physical-fitness tests.

GOP presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie, has given the leader of New Jersey’s National Guard 90 days to slim down and meet the US military’s fitness requirements.

Christie’s staff said the governor of New Jersey was unaware that Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff has been reprimanded by the Pentagon for repeatedly dodged physical-fitness tests.

Records of Cunniff’s evasions were obtained by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The governor has expressed directly to the general that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said in an email statement.

Cunniff flunked his last fitness test in November 2013, his first in three years, when his waist size was measured at 43.5 inches, 4.5 inches larger than regulation. However, it is not clear how much weight Cunniff must lose in 90 days in order to “meet his obligations,” as Christie has requested.

“Many people struggle with weight control – I am not immune from this,” the general said in a statement. “However, I do recognize that military members and leaders, like myself, are held to a higher standard. I take this matter seriously and am taking the necessary steps to remedy this issue.”

Nearly half of US states had adult obesity rates above 30 percent in 2014, according to the latest data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of the states with top obesity rates are in the South or Midwest. New Jersey is among 23 states with an obesity rate between 25-30 percent. 

Although Christie proclaims himself “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen,” he secretly underwent weight-control surgery in 2013. Since a band was surgically placed around his stomach, constricting his food intake, the 5’11’’ governor has shed almost 100 pounds.

And just because Christie hasn’t publicly commented on his weight in regards to his presidential run, it may affect some voters’ perception of the governor. Experts suggest that voters often judge a leader on his or her looks in the current visual-age, regardless of political views. 

“We don’t want leaders that don’t control their body,” image consultant Sylvie di Giusto explained to the International Business Times, “because if they don’t control their body, how can they possibly control an entire country?”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.