LACROSSE, Wisc. - The man who sent a letter to a Wisconsin television anchor that criticized her weight says his note had nothing to do with bullying.
Kenneth Krause, a personal injury attorney, sent the note to La Crosse TV anchor Jennifer Livingston, saying he was surprised to see her physical condition had not improved for years. He told her that he hopes she does not consider herself a suitable example for young people, especially girls.
In her television response, Livingston acknowledged she was overweight but said the man's words were cruel. In a four-minute on-air response, Livingston said she could brush off such comments but worried about children who didn't know how to do the same.
"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," she said on the air.
Her response went viral on the Internet, and the WKBT-TV anchor received thousands of emails and posts in support of her.
Livingston, who has worked in broadcast journalism since 1997, said at least 1,000 people have posted supportive messages on her Facebook page and even more sent her emails. She said many wrote that they wished someone had stood up for them, including some who said they were bullied years ago "and it still haunts them today."
"It's not what this one particular man said to me," the 37-year-old said in a phone interview from the station. "It's the reaction that what I am saying back to him and bullies everywhere is impacting me. I am just shocked right now that the words of one journalist in small La Crosse, Wis., can make such a loud roar."
In his initial email, Krause wrote "obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make," then urged Livingston to "reconsider your responsibility to present and promote a healthy lifestyle."
Krause, who considers himself an anti-obesity crusader, declined to be interviewed by the station but issued a statement that said:
"Given this country's present epidemic of obesity and the many truly horrible diseases related thereto, and 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 Coulee Region children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year, and, to that end, I would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept."
Livingston's husband, who also is an anchor at the Lacrosse TV station, originally posted the email Friday on Facebook. Livingston did not decide to address it on air until after a few local radio stations did segments on it and about bullying -- and she thought about how her three young daughters would eventually face bullies.
"If I could snap my fingers to be a size that I don't have to shop on the plus size rack that would be great, but I'm not ashamed of myself," Livingstone said during an interview on the CBS morning show. "Talk to me about the stories I cover, not the way I look."