LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (USA Today)--Today in La Crosse, Wis., 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 her pointed, 4-minute, 21-second, on-air response, 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.
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 his WKBT 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.
Her response has generated many tweets of support. Among them:
@ConnieSchultz: On my feet cheering for brave and beautiful WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston.
@MarthaPlimpton: cheering for brave and beautiful WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston.
@BenMulroney1976: Jennifer Livingston, I salute you, ma'am. Well done and keep it up.
@gregrikaart: Jennifer Livingston, thank you for your incredible words. You are lovely and beautiful inside and out.
@GuardianJessica: That is frigging awesome. Wisconsin news anchor Jennifer Livingston responds to a fat-shaming email directly on-air.
@KathrynTappen: A standing ovation for Jennifer Livingston @news8jennifer. It's a cruel world out there but she stool tall.
Written By: Michael Winter