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President Trump just accidentally fat shamed one of his own supporters. During a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday, Trump mocked a number of protestors who were being removed from the event by security. One of his supporters was in the process of ripping up their signs, and Trump mistook him for one of the protestors, prompting him to say: “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home, start exercising!”
The crowd cheered in approval when Trump said this, even though the target of his comment appeared to be in better shape than the president. The man in question, who was later identified as Navy veteran Frank Dawson, told Fox News he didn’t take any offense at Trump’s remark (which some are calling hypocritical, given the president’s famous penchant for cheeseburgers).
But it’s not just Trump making tacky body shaming comments. Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang made a series of fat jokes about Trump this week while enjoying fast food at the Iowa State Fair. “I can’t be eating crap on the trail too often, because I need to stay in presidential form,” he said, before going on to repeatedly question Trump’s physical fitness.
“I don’t think Donald Trump could run a mile,” he said. “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? I say he, like, passes out at, like, the quarter-mile mark.” To Yang, it seems that the ability to run a mile is an important trait in a president, akin to those voters who prefer a candidate who they feel they could “have a beer with.”
“I’d challenge Donald Trump to any physical or mental feat under the sun. I mean, gosh, what could that guy beat me at, being a slob?” He continued. “Like, what could Donald Trump possibly be better than me at? An eating contest?” Yang eventually concluded that Trump could beat him at “something that involved, like, trying to keep something on the ground and having really large body mass—like, if there was a hot-air balloon that was rising and you needed to try and keep it on the ground, he would be better than me at that, because he is so fat.”
Not only is it a little bizarre to focus so specifically on Trump’s appearance while others criticize the president’s policies, but Yang’s comments also seem to imply that his own personal fitness somehow makes him a superior candidate.
Jokes about somebody’s appearance serve to belittle and undermine, to make them an object of ridicule, and in that regard it is easy to see why Yang might be tempted, as an incumbent, to stoop to that level. But there’s a more insidious implication to fat shaming; the suggestion that being fat goes beyond someone’s physical appearance and represents some kind of moral failing, that it speaks to laziness, gluttony, turpitude, and other damning character traits.
It’s a pretty puritanical way of thinking, and just like every other cheap potshot made across the aisle, is intended to distract us from the really important issues.