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TV Anchor Reacts to Attack About Her Weight

TV anchor delivers a powerful and inspiring message, which is very timely as we begin National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. However, do you regard her experience as "bullying?"

Jennifer Livingston, a TV anchor at WKBT in LaCrosse, Wisconsin has become the news headline. She received an e-mail from a local man regarding her weight and appearance entitled “Community Responsibility.”  The viewer expressed his opinion that Ms. Livingston isn’t a suitable example or role model for the community’s young people.  “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain,” the viewer wrote. “I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

As would so many people, Ms. Livingston took this  viewer's e-mail as a hurtful and personal attack!  There is no doubt that she represents millions of overweight kids and adults, who are frequent targets of ridicule, cruel jokes, mean remarks, and discrimination.  She explained in a recent interview that the criticism that she was a bad role model was a low blow.

Ms. Livingston’s husband posted the letter on Facebook, which quickly went viral.  Overwhelming support poured in.

On Tuesday morning, Ms. Livingston read the letter on the air, blasted the viewer, and referred to him as a “bully.”  "The truth is, I am overweight," she said. "But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don't know that?" You don't know me ... so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale."

Is this actually bullying?  Bullying is deliberate, and the persistent hostile and abusive words and actions are intended to harm…whether it be face-to-face or electronically. Bullying is characterized by an imbalance of power. Although there is no question that Ms. Livingston felt attacked by the viewer’s opinions, do you regard this as bullying? Do you think the e-mail was meant to be malicious?

I raise this point because I think that the word “bullying” is sometimes misused and overused. In my bullying prevention work with children, I differentiate between teasing and bullying and view them on a continuum. Read more about the differences on a previous Patch blog,

Nevertheless, both cruel teasing and bullying are disrespectful and can be a sharp and direct attack on one’s self-worth.  As Ms. Livingston stated, “These attacks are not okay.”

Whether we agree that this is bullying or not, Ms. Livingston takes a strong stand against the cruel complaints about her appearance and delivered an empowering, bold, and valuable message to her viewers.  She urges kids who are struggling with their weight, the color of their skin, sexual preference or a disability not to let their self-worth be defined by bullies.

I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Livingston’s point that kids learn from example!  If kids hear their parents refer to her as the “fat news anchor,” they are likely to go to school and call someone “fat.”  Ms. Livingston concluded, “Cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”  What a powerful and inspiring message….and very timely as we begin National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month! 

About the blogger: Judy S. Freedman, a licensed clinical social worker and bullying prevention specialist, is the author of Easing the Teasing – Helping Your Child Cope with Name-Calling, Ridicule, and Verbal Bullying.'   She lectures and conducts workshops for parents, educators, and mental health professionals throughout the country.. Learn more about Judy and her work at www.easingtheteasing.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

consumer October 05, 2012 at 03:38 PM
If the news anchor was smoking on camera rather than being overweight on camera, everyone would criticize her as a bad role model. Over-eating and smoking are both unheathly behaviors, what's the difference?
Michael October 05, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I agree with the thoughts that Suzanne posted. I've been overweight at various times in my life and I know what it means to be truly teased (in a cruel manner) and even bullied. The email Livingston received was neither, in my view.
Meshephelous October 05, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Ms. Livingston would be another anonymous fat person if she hadn't decided to make a big deal about this email. Instead, she is just another mouthpiece for Fat America getting her 15 minutes of fame... Perhaps she should consider losing a few pounds rather than acting all indignant and hurt... it's going to be our tax dollars paying for her diabetes and her heart disease if she doesn't...
Gregg Baker October 08, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Eleanor Roosevelt once said "No can make you feel inferior without your permission." If she is comfortable with herself than this is not a big deal. If she is uncomfortable with herself it is not enough to make her direct a change in her life. We simply coddle people way too much and as a result they are deprived of their opportunity to learn to deal with difficult situations. The Eagles wrote a song called "Get Over It" and it applies here.
The Q October 09, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Sorry but dont go on TV if you cant take the heat.......and she is way over weight and not healthy. She is doing nothing but making a fool of her self and some how saying its ok to be unhealthy.

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