(AP/Michael Conroy)

Jared Fogle's weight gain is not a story: Disgusting tabloid schadenfreude trivializes his heinous crimes

The disgraced pitchman packs on pounds, and tabloids go nuts—proving celebrity-coverage habits are hard to break


Mary Elizabeth Williams
March 4, 2016 1:40AM (UTC)

On the list of despicable, disgusting things Jared Fogle has done, you'd think gaining weight wouldn't even crack the top five.

At this point in his life — and for the rest of it — Fogle should be best known as a convicted pedophile and future registered sex offender. Last July, first came under investigation for possession of child pornography, following the arrest of the Jared Foundation’s executive director Russell Taylor. A month later, he pleaded guilty to "one count each of traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and distribution and receipt of child pornography." He also agreed to pay $1.4 million in to 14 victims.  In court documents, he was quoted as reportedly requesting a prostitute with the directive, "The younger the girl, the better." The court papers also revealed that Fogle had an appetite for pornographic materials featuring children "as young as approximately six years of age engaged in sexually explicit content."  He is currently serving a nearly sixteen year sentence in federal prison.  But also, he's put on a few pounds!

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This week, a series of gleeful headlines have gleefully reported that "Pedophile Jared Fogle Packs On 30 Pounds In Prison!" "Former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle binge eating in prison," and "Stress-eating Jared Fogle has gained 30 pounds in prison." Hey, quick question: Why does this guy's relationship with the scale still matter to anybody?

There was a time when his weight was Jared Fogle's whole thing. Back in 2000, a young Fogle was introduced to the world as part of an unlikely advertising campaign — he claimed he'd lost an astonishing 240 pounds on a diet that included, at its "heart," Subway sandwiches.

And for years, being the guy who managed to lose weight eating sandwiches was Fogle's claim to fame. In a 2008 interview, he admitted, "I don’t have a real job. I don’t want a real job. I love what I do." And when those other things he loved to do came to light last year, Fogle tried to blame his behavior on his weight loss. A forensic psychiatrist on his defense team testified at his sentencing last fall that Fogle had a "compulsive eating disorder" and that "Once he lost weight, it seemed as though in a short time he had hyper-sexuality. There are brain disorders that can be associated with sexual drive."

Last month, Fogle's defense team asked for his sentence to be reduced, calling his current punishment "unreasonable." But an "exclusive" InTouch report this week would have you believe he's enjoying some benefits of being out of the public eye — an "insider" reveals that his breakfast "is usually Frosted Flakes with fruit or oatmeal with cake. He loves 'cake day' in the dining hall twice a week and he buys Honey Buns by the box."

If you want to be part of the typical gross tabloid narrative about someone who used to be thinner putting on weight, that's one thing — one of the sites eagerly reporting on Fogle's current size just last week ran a spread on a female celebrity with the keywords "weight gain eating pics." But Fogle is no longer a pitchman. He is not defined by his diet. He did horrible things that involved children and that got him sent to prison. Does anybody really think thirty extra pounds is of any consequence in that scheme of things? Or is the point that getting fat again is somehow karmic retribution for the guy? Yet Fogle's size is irrelevant — it doesn't undo the crimes against children that he was a party to; it doesn't make him any more reprehensible than he already is. And if you're looking for something repulsive about the guy, isn't there already more than enough?

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Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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