MILWAUKEE — Jennifer Livingston has always rebuffed personal attacks, so when the Wisconsin television anchorwoman got an email from a viewer criticizing her weight, she thought nothing of it.
But then she thought of her daughters and other children who may not have the same emotional shield.
Livingston took the airways last Tuesday to respond to the email during a 4-minute segment on WKBT-TV in La Crosse, calling the writer a bully. She urged young viewers not to allow such people to define their self-worth.
She didn’t identify the man, who wrote that he was surprised to see her physical condition hadn’t improved for years. He told her that he hopes she doesn’t consider herself a suitable example for young people, especially girls.
The man who wrote the email, Kenneth Krause, told The Associated Press in an interview that his emails had nothing to do with bullying.
Livingston, who has worked in broadcast journalism since 1997, said at least 1,000 people have posted supportive messages on her Facebook page and even more sent her emails. She said many wrote that they wished someone had stood up for them, including some who said they were bullied years ago “and it still haunts them today.”
“It’s not what this one particular man said to me,” the 37-year-old said in a phone interview from the station. “It’s the reaction that what I am saying back to him and bullies everywhere is impacting me. I am just shocked right now that the words of one journalist in small La Crosse, Wis., can make such a loud roar.”
Livingston said she’s been asked to appear on national morning shows Wednesday.
In his initial email, Krause wrote that “obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make,” then urged Livingston to “reconsider your responsibility to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
They exchanged a few emails, but Livingston said he wouldn’t back down from his opinion that she was a bad role model. Krause, who wouldn’t reveal his profession or age to the AP, said he no longer had the emails.
In her television response, Livingston acknowledged she was overweight but said the man’s words were cruel. Livingston said she could brush off such comments but worried about children who didn’t know how to do the same.
“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,” she said on the air.
Her husband, who also is an anchor at the station, originally posted the email Friday on Facebook. Livingston didn’t decide to address it on air until after a few local radio stations did segments on it and about bullying — and she thought about how her three young daughters would eventually face bullies.
“For me, it’s not about him,” she said. “It’s about the culture of emails like his that not only come to us as journalists but to people all over the place and especially to our kids.”