Overweight News Anchor Takes Fat-Shaming Bully to Task on Air

When Jennifer Livingston, the morning anchor for a news station in La Crosse, Wisconsin, got the email last week, she was stunned.

"Now those of us in the media 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," she said. "But this email was more than that."

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It was from a local man who took issue with the fact that Livingston is overweight, trying to make her feel ashamed about how she looked. Her husband, the station's evening news anchor, Mike Thompson, was so upset by the email that he posted it on his official WKTB Facebook page.

"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."

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The post sparked a discussion that inspired Livingston to address the issue on Tuesday, when she took a took a deep breath and, her voice trembling just a little, read the email out loud. On air.

"Hi, Jennifer," she read. "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 conniption 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 that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle."

She didn't identify the writer of the email, saying only that she received it on Friday from a LaCross Man, and that the subject was "Community Responsibiity."

"Yes, the truth is, I am overweight," Livingston responded as the cameras rolled. "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?"

"You don't know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family, and you have admitted that you don't watch this show," she continued. "So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than number on a scale."

October is National Anti-Bullying month, she pointed out to her viewers. "It is a major issue in the lives of young people today, and as the mother of three young girls, it scares me to death," she said. While the cruel words "mean nothing to me," what angers her is the fact that kids are bullied, in person and via email and social media, every day.

"This behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that email," she pointed out. "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 our kind to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example," she added, thanking viewers and Facebook fans for taking a stand against a bully. "We are better than that email. We are better than the bullies which try to take us down."

She wrapped up her editorial with a word to kids who find themselves facing bullies of their own.

"To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color 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 define by bullies," she said. "Learn from my experience that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many."

As for her not being a responsible or suitable role model, her viewers beg to differ.

"I'm a 20-year-old college student, and a young lady. I believe that Jen is a great role model and definitely someone who makes getting ready for my 8 a.m. class at WSU a little better, especially on a Monday!" Mianna Nichole Sobotta wrote on Thompson's Facebook page. "Shame on whoever wrote that email, because clearly they don't understand what a positive role model is. In a society where girls focus on the Size 0 models, and struggle with self confidence, we need more women to show young girls that you need self confidence and to love yourself for who you are!"