On Tuesday, Jennifer Livingston, morning anchor for LaCrosse, Wisconsin’s WKBT, took a moment to call a viewer who wrote in about her weight a “bully” and thank readers for their “inspiring” support.
The viewer wrote to Livingston on Friday, in an email with the heading “Community Responsibility.”
“It’s unusual that I watch 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,” he said. “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.”
The letter went on to urge Livingston to “reconsider” her “responsibility as a local public personality” and change her shape to something the viewer finds more suitable.
“Now, those of us in the media, we get a healthy dose of critiques from our viewers throughout the year and we realize that it comes with having a job in the public eye,” Livingston said, “but this email was more than that.”
The anchor said that she tried to “laugh off” the contents of the message, but that her colleagues and her husband, evening news anchor Mike Thompson could not. Thompson posted the letter to his Facebook page.
“And what happened next,” said Livingston, “has been truly, truly inspiring.”
Hundreds of people have spoken out in support of Livingston and WKBT and declared “that these kind of attacks are not okay,” she said.
“The truth is that I am overweight,” she continued, “you could call me fat and, yes, even obese.” However, she asked the person who wrote the letter, “Do you think I don’t know that? Do you think that your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see?”
“You don’t know me, you’re not a friend of mine. You’re not a part of my family and you have admitted that you don’t watch this show.” she said. “So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale.”
She went on to say that she believes that there is something for everyone to learn here. October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. Bullying, she said, is an issue that extends through all of our schools and all levels of society.
“And as a mother of three young girls, it scares me to death,” she said. While Livingston said that as a grown woman, she has “a very thick skin,” there are children who don’t know better, who get similar criticisms from people around them and on the Internet every day.
Bullying behaviors, she said, are learned, passed down to children from adults like the viewer who wrote her that email.
“If you’re at home and you’re talking about ‘the fat news lady,’ guess what? Your children are going to go to school and call someone fat.”
Livingston urged parents to teach their children to be “kind, not critical,” and to do that teaching “by example.”
She thanked her colleagues, her husband and family and the hundreds of viewers for their support, “and for taking a stand against this bully,” she said, “We are better than this email. We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down.”
And finally, she spoke “to all the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight or the color of your skin, your sexual preference or 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.”
Watch this video, embedded via WKBT Channel 8, below: