By Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (Oct. 3) – Jennifer Livingston has always rebuffed personal attacks, so when the Wisconsin television anchorwoman got an email from a viewer criticizing her weight, she thought nothing of it.
But then she thought of her daughters and other children who may not have the same emotional shield.
Livingston took the airways Tuesday to respond to the email during a 4-minute segment on WKBT-TV in La Crosse, calling the writer a bully. She urged young viewers not to allow such people to define their self-worth.
She didn’t identify the man, who wrote that he was surprised to see her physical condition hadn’t improved for years. He told her that he hopes she doesn’t consider herself a suitable example for young people, especially girls.
The man who wrote the email, Kenneth Krause, told The Associated Press in an interview that his emails had nothing to do with bullying.
Livingston, who has worked in broadcast journalism since 1997, said at least 1,000 people have posted supportive messages on her Facebook page and even more sent her emails. She said many wrote that they wished someone had stood up for them, including some who said they were bullied years ago “and it still haunts them today.”
“It’s not what this one particular man said to me,” the 37-year-old said in a phone interview from the station. “It’s the reaction that what I am saying back to him and bullies everywhere is impacting me. I am just shocked right now that the words of one journalist in small La Crosse, Wis., can make such a loud roar.”
Livingston said she’s been asked to appear on national morning shows Wednesday.
In his initial email, Krause wrote that “obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make,” then urged Livingston to “reconsider your responsibility to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
They exchanged a few emails, but Livingston said he wouldn’t back down from his opinion that she was a bad role model. Krause, who wouldn’t reveal his profession or age to the AP, said he no longer had the emails.
In her television response, Livingston acknowledged she was overweight but said the man’s words were cruel.
Livingston said she could brush off such comments but worried about children who didn’t know how to do the same.
“To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now: Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies.
“Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many,” she said on the air.
Her husband, who also is an anchor at the station, originally posted the email Friday on Facebook. Livingston didn’t decide to address it on air until after a few local radio stations did segments on it and about bullying — and she thought about how her three young daughters would eventually face bullies.
“For me, it’s not about him,” she said. “It’s about the culture of emails like his that not only come to us as journalists but to people all over the place and especially to our kids.”
Here’s the inciting e-mail, from the unidentified viewer, reportedly a local lawyer:
Subject: Community Responsibility
It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years.
Sure you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Livingston’s husband, evening news co-anchor Mike Thompson, posted the e-mail to hisWKBT Facebook page after it landed, igniting a social media storm of support:
Ok. I really don’t know where to begin here. I’ve posted about negative emails the station has received in the past, but this one delivered specifically to my wife, morning anchor Jennifer Livingston, has just infuriated me. Seriously, the fact that there are people out there like this (and I understand this person is a lawyer in town) makes me sick to my stomach.
Here’s some of Livingston’s response to her critic (h/t Jim Romenesko):
The truth is, I am overweight. You can call me fat — and yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart. But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? …Now I am a grown woman, and luckily for me I have a very thick skin, literally — as that email pointed out — and otherwise. That man’s words mean nothing to me, but really angers me about this is is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day. …
I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.
LA CROSSE, Wis.,(Oct. 3) WKBT-TV morning anchor Jennifer Livingston fired back at a man who e-mailed her Friday to complain about her weight, saying that as a “local public personality,” she wasn’t a “suitable” role model for youth, particularly girls.
In a pointed, 4-minute, 21-second, on-air response Tuesday, Livingston said that the e-mailer did not know her, and that she was “much more than a number on the scale.” She then turned the discussion of her weight into a rallying cry against bullying, noting that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.