Local Wisconsin news anchor Jennifer Livingston spoke out against bullying on air after receiving a harsh email concerning her appearance.
Livingston, a reporter and anchor at News 8 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin since the late ’90s, took a few minutes on Tuesday morning to respond to an email from Kenneth W. Krause, a male viewer, that criticized her weight. The email was posted on Facebook by her husband, News 8 anchor Mike Thompson:
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. Surely 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 you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Livingston read the letter on air, and said she initially tried to laugh off the letter, but after reading the overwhelming response on her husband’s Facebook page, she decided to address the issue.
“The truth is: I am overweight,” Livingston said. “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? You don’t know me…so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale.”
The video of Livingston’s response went viral Tuesday morning. Thousands online responded in comment sections on the News 8 website, YouTube, and other sites where the video was posted in support of Livingston, and even Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “What a powerful message against bullying. @News8Jennifer, I would love to meet you in person.”
News 8 invited Krause on air to respond, but he declined and instead sent a statement to the station:
“Given this country’s present epidemic of obesity and the many truly horrible diseases related thereto, and considering Jennifer Livingston’s fortuitous position in the community, I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of Coulee Region children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year, and, to that end, I would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept.”
Livingston ended her editorial comment with a reminder to the public that October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and encouraged her viewers to stand up to bullies: ”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.”