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Christie calls out former White House physician over ‘die in office’ comment

(CNN) — Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday blasted as a “hack” a former White House physician following her assessment in a CNN interview the day before that his weight may cause him to die in office but the doctor is standing her ground.

On Wednesday, Christie called Dr. Connie Mariano and “vented,” according to the doctor who served in the White House during the Clinton presidency. After the conversation with Christie, she spoke with CNN’s National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta and stood by her statements and professed no regrets.

Christie has spoken openly about his weight and health concerns and even poked fun at himself — most recently at a Monday appearance on David Letterman’s late night program, saying “I’m basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life.” He punctuated the joke by snacking on a doughnut midway through the interview because he “didn’t know it was going to be this long.”

But he wasn’t pleased when Mariano offered her assessment in the interview without having evaluated him, describing her publicly as “just another hack who wants five minutes on TV.”

“If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I will have a conversation with her about that,” Christie said after touring the post-Superstorm Sandy reconstruction effort in Sea Girt, New Jersey.

“Until that time she should shut up,” he fired.

Mariano told CNN after his comments, “It’s unfortunate that he took it in that manner. It was meant to be constructive.”

“But when I see someone who looks like him, you don’t have to be a White House doctor to be concerned about health issues,” she said, adding that she had invited him to her offices in Arizona.

Mariano made her initial comments in an interview with CNN Tuesday.

She acknowledged that she is a Republican and supported him running for office, but characterized herself as “a physician more than I’m a Democrat or Republican and I’m worried about this man dying in office,” she said.

Christie is widely thought to be considering a presidential run and has not ruled out that prospect. Instead, he has said he is focused on his current job in the Garden State and is up for re-election this year.

But his health is “almost like a time bomb that’s waiting to go off unless he addresses those issues before running for office,” she said.

Christie has pointed to the long and stressful days he worked during and after the Sandy crisis as a sign he can handle the demands of public office and his physical condition.

He mocked her as a “genius” for her ability to diagnose him remotely.

“I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away,” he said. He added that someone with “the privilege of having a medical license should, in my view, conduct themselves more responsibly.”

Mariano replied that she did not need to perform a formal physical evaluation: “When you see it, you can’t help it. It’s an issue.”

At a press conference on Monday Christie said that he and his doctors did have a plan for his health, and “whether it’ll be successful or not, you’ll all be able to notice.”

“My doctor continues to warn me that my luck is going to run out relatively soon, so believe me it’s something I’m very conscious of,” he said.

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