A Wisconsin anchorwoman whose on-air response to a viewer email criticizing her weight has gone viral took to the “Today” show on Wednesday, calling the attack “totally inappropriate.”
“I can deal with being called fat,” Jennifer Livingston told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. “It was calling me a bad role model that really rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like that was an unfair judgment from someone who doesn’t know me. His approach was totally inappropriate.”
Livingston, the 37-year-old morning anchor on WKBT-TV in La Crosse, received an email from a male viewer last week, which read, in part: “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.”
Livingston’s husband, who also is an anchor at the station, was outraged and posted the email Friday on Facebook, where at least 1,000 people posted positive comments in an “overwhelming and inspiring” show of support, Livingston told “Today.”
Livingston took to the airways with a 4-minute segment on her own morning show Tuesday to respond to the email, and called the writer a bully. She urged young viewers not to allow such people to define their self-worth.
Livingston told The Associated Press she and the viewer exchanged a few emails, but he wouldn't back down from his opinion that she was a bad role model.
The man who wrote the email has been identified as Kenneth Krause. He told the AP in an interview that his emails had nothing to do with bullying. Krause would not reveal his age or profession to the AP, and said he no longer had the emails. He did, however, release a statement to WKBT-TV Tuesday.
“…considering jennifer livingston’s fortuitous position in the community, I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of…children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see,” the statement said.
In his initial message, Krause wrote that, "obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make.”
Livingston, who has worked in broadcast journalism since 1997, said she agreed that obesity is an issue worth discussing, but argued her position as a media figure does not make her a health role model.
“I have never gone in public and said that I am the shining example of what your health should be,” Livingston said Wednesday on “Today.” “I never said girls should aspire to have a body like mine. My job is to come out, cover stories, deliver the news. But when you attack somebody on a level that is personal, it’s not fair.”
Livingston pointed out that October is National Bullying Prevention month, and urged viewers everywhere to speak out if they witness bullying.
“I’m having conversations with my 10-year-old daughter about bullying right now and I’m trying to tell her it’s important to take a stand,” she told “Today.” “I’m a tough gal, I can stand up for myself and I’m going to do it.”