The cause of Gov. Paul LePage’s dramatic weight loss in recent months was revealed Wednesday when the slimmed-down governor told a talk radio host he underwent bariatric surgery in September after his doctor warned him he risked developing diabetes if he didn’t lose weight.
Speaking on Portland-based WLOB, LePage said he was treated as an outpatient and returned to work the next day, according to a report in the Sun Journal. Certain bariatric procedures can be done as outpatient treatments, according to the National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine.
LePage’s staff members had previously declined any comment on the governor’s weight loss, once telling a reporter it was “none of your business.” However, LePage said Wednesday he had lost at least 50 pounds and was feeling well.
“We do not comment on the governor’s personal medical care,” LePage’s communications director Peter Steele wrote in an email to the Press Herald. “If he chooses to talk about it publicly, that is his decision.”
LePage is the second governor in recent years to acknowledge he had a weight-loss procedure. In 2015, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie acknowledged he had a bariatric surgery in 2013 and like LePage said it was a good decision.
Steele declined to say whether LePage paid for the surgery himself or whether it was covered by LePage’s state health insurance plan.
The health of LePage’s predecessor, Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, was also occasionally questioned by the media and public.
David Farmer, a deputy chief of staff for Baldacci, said the former governor’s thin appearance combined with a “bad haircut” given by his son Jack prompted reporters to question whether Baldacci was battling cancer. “We got asked about it a lot, but there was nothing to it. But, there was never something quite so obvious as Gov. LePage’s weight loss,” Farmer said.
Farmer said the health of any governor is certainly a matter of public interest and speculation.
He noted the state’s constitution requires a governor to notify the secretary of state and the Legislature if he is physically or mentally incapacitated so that the Senate president would be able execute the governor’s powers in the event of a statewide emergency. Farmer suggested that if LePage was placed under anesthesia for a medical procedure that would constitute being physically and mentally incapacitated.