But TIME magazine referred to him as such this week. On the venerable publication’s cover was a shadowy, Hitchcockian profile of New Jersey’s stout governor headlined, “THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.”
The elephant became the symbol of the Republican Party in 1874 when, according to factmonster.com, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a donkey (the Democrats’ symbol) clothed in lion’s skin, scaring away animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled “The Republican Vote.” “That’s all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party,” noted the site.
With the Republican Christie re-elected last week in a landslide, TIME published the cover and created controversy–and got lots of publicity. Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in Salon: “Nobody needs to tiptoe around the reality of what Chris Christie looks like . . . but…you don’t need to call him a pachyderm. And anybody who does is just a big fat jerk.” New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse also tweeted his disappointment: “These cheap shots are decidedly uncool.” And Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren tweeted: “TIME MAGAZINE EDITOR is SLIMY SNAKE!”
TIME Executive Editor Michael Duffy went into full spin mode, telling MSNBC: “Well, he’s obviously a big guy. He’s obviously a big Republican. But he’s also done a really huge thing here this week. He stood astride the Republican Party and said, ‘Stop. We don’t have to make our whole appeal about narrow base issues.’ And that campaign showed it with the demographics you talked about.”
The folks at Business Insider aligned their opinion with Duffy: “The new issue of TIME features a brilliant triple entendre featuring Chris Christie.” And the thick-skinned Christie has made light of his weight on national TV many times.
But comparing a heavy man to an elephant so you can sell more magazines has created a (positive? negative?) public relations “situation” for TIME. Duffy may think it’s worth it if, in fact, all the attention results in selling more magazines this week. Its cover certainly has people talking about TIME, which must have been its editors’ ultimate goal. Your thoughts?