CBS WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston made headlines on Tuesday after she stood up to a bully on the air. The La Crosse, Wis., newswoman addressed a cruel email she received from a “sometime viewer” named Kenneth Krause.
Krause criticized Livingston for her weight and accused her of being a bad example for viewers and her children.
"I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn't improved for many years," Krause wrote. "Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular."
Livingston chose to address the email on-air, and the clip of her response went viral.
“The truth is, you could 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,” Livingston said in a heartfelt retort. “You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family, and you have admitted that you don't watch the show. So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside … And I am much more than a number on a scale.”
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Livingston, a mother of three, is the sister of actor Ron Livingston.
In a statement published by People, the “Office Space” star said that he’s "extremely proud" of his sister, and he spoke of his admiration for her.
"My sister Jennifer ... brings an exceptional dedication to her job, her family and her community, and has been a role model of mine for many, many years.”
Jennifer Livingston’s story became a widely discussed topic after her husband, Mike Thompson, an anchor on the same network, posted Krause’s email on his Facebook page.
“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, said Thompson. “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.”
The Facebook post received over 3,000 comments and sparked a major discussion about bullying and “fatshaming.”
Dodai Stewart of Jezebel pointed out that the attack on the 37-year-old “News 8” reporter is an example of the prevailing bigotry that overweight individuals face.
“Fatphobia is rampant, and fatshaming is, somehow, the one acceptable form of bigotry we have in this society,” Stewart said. “Magazines, TV shows and movies openly mock and rail against the overweight, revere ‘bikini bodies’ and help to spread an atmosphere of intolerance. The amount of time this man spent crafting an email -- with the intention of making a working mother of three feel ashamed of herself -- is a sad testament to a toxic environment.”
Livingston’s newly created Facebook page has been flooded with posts from around the world. Many have expressed their support for her, commending her moving on-air statement. Some Facebook users have also shared stories of their own struggles with their body image.
“There is no telling how many suicides you may have prevented by asking young people to take a stand against bullies and not allow themselves to be defined by the cruel comments of others,” one user posted.
“YOU are an amazing role model for boys, girls, men, and women…for everyone! You are beyond beautiful because you are intelligent, courageous, and well spoken. You model grace, strength, and a presence most inspiring in the face of bullying. You, your husband, your colleagues, and the station that supports you must be commended for the responsible use of your place in the public eye, for speaking out against such acts of cowardliness.”
Several celebs also showed their support for Livingston.
Ellen DeGeneres tweeted, "What a powerful message against bullying @news8jennifer, I would love to meet you in person.”
Jennifer Love-Hewitt also tweeted words of support. “Jennifer Livingston the anchor who fought back against comments made about her is my new hero! Way to go! She's a beautiful woman!”
Despite the attention surrounding Livingston’s response to Krause’s email, he stands by his original statement.
In a statement published by Poynter on Wednesday, he suggested that Livingston use her position in the spotlight and physically transform herself for the world to see.
“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,” Krause said.
Body acceptance is a popular philosophy at the moment.
Last week, Lady Gaga responded to the harsh comments surrounding her weight by asking fans, via LittleMonsters.com, to celebrate their flaws.
“Now that the body revolution has begun, be brave and post a photo of you that celebrates your triumph over insecurities,” she wrote.
The pop icon also posted photos of herself with the caption, “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.”
Both Lady Gaga’s “Body Revolution” movement and Livingston’s brave response have no doubt brought attention to a widespread social issue.