WKBT anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston gained thousands of new fans after she bravely responded on-air to a man who bullied her about her weight in an e-mail.
Livingston, an anchor for WKBT in La Crosse, Wis., used the harsh, hateful email to send a message to young people on the effects of bullying.
“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,” the man wrote. “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 that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
The e-mail went viral after Livingston’s husband and WKBT colleague Mike Thompson posted it on his WKBT 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,” Thompson wrote. “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 post was liked by 232 people and commented on nearly 700 times as of Tuesday afternoon.
Livingston said she tried to laugh off the “hurtful attack on my appearance.”
“Attacks like this are not OK,” the WKBT anchorwoman said on-air, which you can view in the video below.
Livingston admitted that people can call her “fat” or “obese,” but said the man’s attack wasn’t helpful.
Addressing the man, she said, “you don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine, you’re not a part of my family and you have admitted that you don’t watch this 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.”
Livingston used the opportunity to alert viewers that October is National Bullying Month and said bullying “is a problem that is growing every day in our schools and on the Internet.”
As the mother of three young girls, Livingston said bullying “scares me to death.”
The WKBT anchorwoman said she has thick skin “and that man’s words mean nothing to me.
“But what really angers me about this is there are young children who don’t know better,” Livingston continued. “The Internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground and this behavior is learned. It’s passed down from people like the man who wrote me that email.
“If you are at home and you are talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach are kids how to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example,” Livingston said.
The anchorwoman said she was “literally overwhelmed” by those who showed their support for her on Facebook.
Thompson also said he was taken aback by those who stood by Livingston in a Facebook post Monday.
“Wow. What can I say. When I posted the disheartening email that Jennifer received on Friday, I knew it would elicit some response, but I am in shock at the amount of love and support. As you can imagine, I was angry that someone would attack my beautiful wife for no reason. We get negative feedback all the time, but this one had crossed the line. We both put our heart and soul into our jobs to be a service to our great community, and for someone to write something so mean-spirited and frankly disgusting, was just unacceptable,” he wrote.
“Your words of support and encouragement have been very humbling. Unfortunately, I've had to explain to our 10-year-old daughter, who is right around the age of starting to worry about her body image, there are people out there in this world that actually think this way and that her mother was a target of this hate. My hope is that something good can actually come out of this negative.
“If anything, it's already started an important discussion about bullying and positive role models. To be clear, I do not wish any harassment towards the individual who wrote this email. I think the outpouring of positive feedback is enough to send a strong message that his email was wrong on so many levels,” he continued. “Thank you again to all the people who wrote in, you just proved what I already knew, News 8 viewers rock.”
More than 1,600 Facebook users liked the comment as of Tuesday afternoon and the post elicited about 150 comments.