Jennifer Livingston, a TV news anchor at WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wis., received an email this week from a casual viewer criticizing her weight. The viewer writes:

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.

Livingston’s husband Mike Thompson posted the email on Facebook and then Livingston took to the air to respond to the email (video above).

In the on-air address, Livingston says, “If you are at home and you are talking about the fat newslady, guess what, your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.”

She also says, “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.”

Gawker is largely responsible for the swift national attention the on-air response has been receiving and what is interesting are the variety of comments on the Gawker post about this whole incident.

There were many who thought Livingston was comparing being fat to being gay or being a racial minority, instead of her just pointing out various things that people are bullied for. And many took issue with her, since they believe that being fat is something you can change.

One commenter writes, “This is a hijacking of the whole bullying uproar. Being fat is unlike
being gay, ugly, or having a different skin color. It’s something you
change in 1 month. So sack up and do it. Also, the email didn’t ridicule
her for being fat, it just brought to her attention that her presence
on TV lends to accepting fat as normal. It’s not normal, it’s a problem
and it needs to be addressed more than bullying.”

But another commenter points out, “Being fat is something that people are bullied for, and just because it
is something you can change, does not excuse being an a**hole to other
people because they don’t look like you think they should look.”

It’s also interesting that while on one hand society rails against too-thin famous women and unrealistic expectations leading to body image issues for young girls, on the other hand there is such negative responses to Livingston, such as one commenter who writes, “I don’t see the attack. This country has gone fatso like never before
and becoming a fatso is also, in many cases, ‘learned’ behavior.”

Livingston appeared on “Today” Wednesday morning (Oct. 3) and her says:

Yes, the person called me obese and I can deal with that … It was calling me a bad role model that really rubbed me the wrong way … for young girls, in particular. I’m the mother of three girls and I felt like that was an unfair judgment from someone who doesn’t know me.

I think [the obesity talk is] a good conversation to have. I think his approach is totally inappropriate. I have never gone in public and said I am the shining example of what your health should be … My job is to come out, cover stories, deliver the news … when you attack somebody on a level that is personal, it’s not fair. I don’t care that I’m in the public eye, it’s not fair. …

I think that’s been the downside of the internet. People can just put out what they want with anonymity and never have any responsibility for what they’re saying … it’s so easy to be cruel when we should try to focus on being kind.

What do you think, readers?

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."