Wisc. anchor to weight bully: "Talk to me about the stories I cover"
(CBS News) Local TV anchor Jennifer Livingston got personal on the air Tuesday, when the newswoman read a cruel letter blaming the anchor for an absence of "community responsibility" because she is overweight. An anchor for CBS affiliate WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wisc., Livingston responded to the harsh criticism with a several-minute, deeply personal on-air editorial.
The letter blamed Livingston for being obese and setting a poor example for young girls and read:
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.
Her video response went viral on Tuesday night and Livingston took to "CBS This Morning" to address the controversy and the aftermath.
"What happened next has been truly inspiring," Livingston said, of the onslaught of supportive responses she received when her husband -- also an anchor for the station -- posted the viewer's email on Facebook. "I am literally overwhelmed by your words," Livingston said, before pleading with viewers to "do not let your self worth be defined by bullies."
Livingston spoke with "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday and told Norah O'Donnell she decided to speak out because usually the emails she gets are about stories she covers -- which she called "fair game" -- however, she said, "this was a personal attack not only on my size, but my ability to role model our community and for young girls...
"That email was well-written, it was articulate," Livingston allowed, "but make no mistake, it was meant to hurt my feelings. It was meant to shame me into losing weight and in my opinion, that's a bully."
The local anchorwoman said she was "very surprised" by the reaction her on-air editorial sparked across the country. "I knew it would get some reaction locally," she said. I was hoping to inspire people within our community to start the conversation about bullying. I had no idea that this would happen."
Livingston spoke frankly with Gayle King about the issue behind the viewer's email, her weight.
"I have always struggled with my weight...since my daughter was born 10 years ago...it has been a roller-coaster ride of weight gain and loss," she said and admitted, "If I could choose and snap my fingers to be a size that I don't have to buy off the plus-size rack, that would be great...but I'm not ashamed of myself, I'm proud of who I am. Talk to me about the stories I cover, not the way I look."
Livingston told the "CTM" co-host that for her, the issue at hand is about bullying on all fronts. "This is not a weight issue," she said, "people are bullied about so many different things."
In the wake of her response, the man who sent the email has released a statement, which reads, in part, "I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and opportunity" to lose weight and set a healthy example.
Reacting to the statement, Livingston said her station reached out to him and he declined to come on the show, and joked that he is "standing strong."
Watch Livingston's reaction on "CTM" in the video above.
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