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News anchor responds on air to viewer letter criticizing her ‘obesity’

Posted at 9:26 PM, Oct 02, 2012

LA CROSSE, Wisc. — It’s not uncommon for television news anchors to receive emails from viewers. Sometimes they’re nice. Sometimes they’re not.

An anchor and reporter in La Crosse, Wisconsin recently received one of those not-so-nice emails. Its message, essentially: “You’re fat.”

Instead of ignoring the harsh words from a complete stranger, Jennifer Livingston took the opportunity to address them. She read the email on air at WKBT and called attention to the ever-growing bullying epidemic that continues to plague our nation’s teens — and, apparently, some adults.

Watch her  message in its entirety below. (Video may take a moment to load. Please be patient.)

Here is a script of the entire on-air segment. 

"I want to take a moment to address a situation that has become a talking point in this community over the past weekend, especially on Facebook - that centers around me. On Friday, I received the following e-mail from a La Crosse man with the subject line "Community responsibility."  

It reads as follows... 

"Hi Jennifer, 
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. 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." (end letter)

"Now those of us in the media get a healthy dose of critiques from our viewers throughout the year - and we realize it comes with having a job in the public eye.

But this e-mail was more than that. While I tried my best to laugh off the very hurtful attack on my appearance, my colleagues could not do the same.  Especially my husband, our 6 and 10 anchor Mike Thompson.  Mike posted this e-mail on his WKBT facebook page - and what happened next has been truly inspiring.

Hundreds and hundreds of people have taken the time out of their day to not only lift my spirits - but take a stand that attacks like this are not okay. More on that in a second. But first...The truth is - I am overweight.  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 I don't see? You don't know me.  You are not a friend of mine.

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

And here's where I want us all to learn something from this. If you didn't already know - October in National Anti-Bullying month. And this is a problem that is growing everyday in our schools and on the internet. 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. Now I am a grown woman.

And lucky for me - I have a very thick skin...literally as that e-mail pointed out - and otherwise. And that man's words mean nothing to me. But what really angers me about this...there are children who don't know better.

Who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases even worse - each and every day. The internet has become a weapon. Our schools a battleground. And this behavior is learned - it is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail.  

If you are at home 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 kids how to be kind - not critical and we need to do that by example. So many of you have come to my defense over the past four days. I am literally overwhelmed by your words.

To my colleagues and friends from today and from years family, my amazing husband and so many of you out there that I will probably never have the opportunity to meet - I will never be able to thank you enough for you words of support.  And for taking a stand against this bully.  

We are better than that e-mail.  We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down.

And I leave you with this... to all the children out there who feel lost...who are struggling with weight, 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 the cruel words of one...are nothing compared to the shouts of many. We'll be right back.