Overweight News Anchor Takes On Fat Shamer ((UPDATE)) Apology from Mr. Krause on page 26
Overweight News Anchor Takes Fat-Shaming Bully to Task on AirBy Lylah M. Alphonse – 4 hours ago
When Jennifer Livingston, the morning news anchor for WKBT-TV 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."
The public fascination with celebrities' weight and body image is nothing new. Just last week, after speculation about a big weight gain, Lady Gaga admitted that she's "struggled with weight and eating issues my whole life" and launched a "Body Revolution" to encourage fans to embrace their flaws. Earlier this year, supermodel Kate Upton defended her curves after a "thinspiration" blogger called her "lardy" and "a squishy brick."
But for Livingston, the email made a public issue very personal. Instead of criticism, her husband's Facebook post garnered thousands of "likes" and hundreds of comments -- the vast majority of them positive.
"My compliments to Jennifer for taking the opportunity to address this issue on the air," wrote Jay Johnson on one WKBT-TV Facebook page. "That took a lot of guts. And my hat's off to WKBT as well, for allowing her to use air time for this purpose. Obviously your station has good people with integrity, who care for their community."
"What an AMAZING woman you are Jennifer!" viewer Felicia Nelson Koth chimed in. "I think you are excellent role model for everyone especially your girls."
News anchor Jennifer Livingston addresses her bully on air. (Photo: Screengrab from WKBT-TV)Livingston says that she was stunned by the outpouring of support. The Facebook discussions inspired her to address the issue on Tuesday morning, 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
She didn't identify the writer of the email, saying only that she received it on Friday from a La Crosse Man, and that the subject was "Community Responsibility."
"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 a 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 defined 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 whomever 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!"
He wrote an email so critical of his local TV anchorwoman's weight that it caused her to deliver an on-air response that made national headlines.
Yet, Kenneth Krause, the Wisconsin man behind the infamous email to Jennifer Livingston, a morning anchor with WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wis., is not backing down, even as his public profile continues to grow.
A photo of Krause's posing behind a mountain bike in a tank top, helmet and bulging biceps is making the rounds after appearing on the Facebook page of Brian Simpson, a local radio host and friend of Livingston's who invited Krause to appear on his show.
"Once again, I'd like to invite Kenneth to come on our show, The Morning Sickness on 95.7 The Rock, and talk about his hatred for people who are a bit overweight. I sure hope his wife, Michele, doesn't pack on a few pounds … who knows what he'd do to her," Simpson wrote on his page.
Krause, who, according to local media, is a personal injury attorney, has reportedly declined that request. Attempts to reach him today by ABC News were not successful.
He did, however, offer Livingston, a mother of three who acknowledged being overweight - even obese - in her four-minute, on-air editorial address Tuesday morning in which she also called Krause a "bully," help in losing weight.
" … I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of Coulee Region children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year," reads the statement submitted by Krause to WKBT after Livingston's editorial aired. "To that end, I would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept."
Krause's email to Livingston - in which he questioned her example as a role model for young girls because of her weight and asked her to "reconsider" her responsibility as a "local public personality" - went viral after her husband and fellow WKBT anchor, Mike Thompson, posted it to his Facebook page. Thompson's Facebook page and the story posted by WKTB on its website have each received thousands of comments. Videos of the on-air editorial posted to YouTube have been viewed million of times.
They appeared on "Good Morning America" earlier this week, questioning Krause's own character for criticizing Livingston without knowing the facts.
"He doesn't know that she has a condition, a thyroid condition, that makes it harder for her to lose weight. He doesn't know any of that," Thompson said. "He just decided to attack her for no reason."
Livingston, a tri-athlete and a runner, says she would like to lose weight, but not because of Krause.
"I would like to get healthier for my own reasons. It doesn't really have to do with him," Livingston told "GMA" in a new interview Thursday. "It's not about him anymore.
"There are a lot of people out there who are so supportive in ways that are not negative and I will reach out to those people," she said. "I don't know what, if any, help he [Krause] could provide me."
The outpouring of support that Livingston has received since she publicly defended herself against Krause's comments has turned her story into a tale seemingly destined for Hollywood, and one of the people supporting her could help make that happen.
Livingston's brother, Ron Livingston, is an actor famous for his roles in "Office Space" and "Sex and the City," among others.
"I got a text from him first thing this morning saying, 'Way to go sissy. I'm so proud of you,'" she told "GMA."