Local TV anchor criticized for her weight: ‘I don’t take a lot of crap from people’

Wisconsin TV news anchor Jennifer Livingston has gained thousands of supporters this week by publicly taking on one critic who called her fat. Her story has since been broadcast on NBC’s “Nightly News” and she has appeared on the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” and “CBS This Morning.”

Last week, the WKBT-TV morning newscast anchor received an email from Kenneth Krause, a La Crosse man who says he is an occasional viewer. Krause criticized Livingston for being overweight, saying she was not a good role model for her three daughters and for others who watch.

Livingston, who told me by phone Tuesday night, “I don’t take a lot of crap from people,” said she emailed back and forth with Krause a few times. “I said, ‘Whoa buddy, this is far beyond what is OK to write to somebody in an email, even somebody who is in the public like me.’ ” But, Livingston said, Krause would not back down. “He kept saying I was a poor role model.”

Jennifer Livingston has anchored the morning news for more than a decade.

Livingston is well known to her viewers. She shared her struggles with infertility, and when she got pregnant she shared her experience in a public “baby blog.”

WKBT News Director Anne Paape told me, “Her viewing public really knows her on many levels, not just as a TV news person.” So it seemed logical to take this conversation public.

Livingston’s husband, Mike Thompson, anchors the WKBT 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news programs. He posted Krause’s email on his Facebook page, but didn’t use Krause’s name:

Hundreds of comments followed, overwhelmingly supportive of Livingston; many people shared their own struggles with weight discrimination. A few of the comments named Krause and one person even posted a home address that Livingston’s fans could go visit and express their displeasure.

Mike Thompson met his future wife Jennifer Livingston when the two were out covering the same story; he was working, at the time, for the competition.

The local radio stations in La Crosse were all over the story, feeding off of the Facebook frenzy.

“I decided Monday night after I put my daughters to bed that I had to say something myself,” Livingston told me.

Tuesday morning, she delivered a four-minute editorial on air about bullying and weight, speaking directly to Krause.

“The truth is, I am overweight,” the anchor said, looking straight into the camera. “But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? 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.”

She then spoke to the rest of the viewing audience. “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.”

After the editorial aired Tuesday morning, the station’s website received about 50,000 hits, reported Anne Thompson for “Nightly News,” “almost one for every person in La Crosse.” Schools used the broadcast to talk about bullying, she said. And hundreds of people wrote notes of support on the station’s website and on Facebook:

As the story spread beyond Wisconsin and then internationally, the comments, especially on YouTube, took a rude turn.

Late Tuesday, Krause released a statement re-affirming his original position.

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. — Kenneth W. Krause

I asked WKBT News Director Anne Paape to explain the thinking behind taking this public. She responded by email:

The conversation began when this person emailed Jennifer and accused her of setting a bad example in our community. She did what journalists do, and asked him whether she could invite the community to comment on the conversation. He agreed, and the conversation suddenly got a lot more inclusive. Initially, people seemed to take this personally on Jen’s behalf and rushed to her defense. When Jen decided she wanted to address this on air during our morning newscast today I knew she had the opportunity to do great good and told her she had my full encouragement to comment on how this was impacting her as a professional and as a person.

Though, “airtime is precious,” she said, it was “absolutely” worth spending four minutes on this segment. “I have never been more proud of her or this TV station.”

“Clearly, appearance is part of the package for anyone on TV,” Paape said, “But only part of the package.”

Livingston said she realizes that TV is a visual media and that most people on TV are fit and thin. But her station has been more interested in what else she brings to her audience.

“The pressure from my bosses is not there; any pressure would be from myself. I would not choose to be the weight that I am,” she said, but “I don’t wallow in the fact I am overweight. I am not promoting my lifestyle.”

She said she has not always been overweight but put on pounds when she had children. “I have not had to deal with this my whole life, but I have always been one who would stand up for others who were being bullied.”

Livingston told me that that she has been flooded with interview requests, including from “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show. She appeared on both shows Wednesday morning and on “CBS This Morning.”

On the “Today” show, Livingston said, “I can deal with being called obese. It was calling me a bad role model that rubbed me the wrong way. And not only a bad role model for our community, but for young girls in particular. I’m the mother of three girls.”

It was one of her daughters, in fact, who indirectly inspired Livingston to talk about the bullying, she told Savannah Guthrie, who asked whether Livingston was afraid she’d be insulted even worse if she went public. No, Livingston responded:

I do have a pretty thick skin. I’m a tough gal. I can handle those kind of emails. What I was thinking instead was, I’m having conversations with my 10-year-old daughter about bullying right now and I’m telling her, I’m trying to inspire her that if she sees bullying happen in other people, she needs to take a stand, it’s important to take a stand. What kind of message am I teaching her when my husband and I are talking about this mean email that I received and I’m not taking a stand for myself? I can stand up for myself, there’s a lot of people that can’t. And I’m gonna do it.

Livingston and Thompson said on “Good Morning America” that they told their 10-year-old “she needs to be strong.”

Among the many emails of support, Livingston, who has a thyroid problem that makes weight loss difficult, received an offer to publish a children’s book on bullying. “It’s so easy to be cruel,” she told Guthrie.

Livingston closed her on-air editorial with that same message:

I leave you with this: 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.

Livingston told Guthrie the response has been “beyond what I could have imagined when I went on air yesterday. I was hoping to impact the people in our own market, I was hoping to send a message to them. What has happened has been really overwhelming but inspiring at the same time.”

Julie Moos contributed to this report.

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  • Anonymous

    Krause needs not only to get a life but to take a few etiquette lessons. No doubt Ms. Livingston is there for her abilities, proven in her editorial comment. If Iwant blonde bimbos, I’ll watch Faux; if I want real news, I’ll watch a real newscaster – like Jennifer Livingston.

  • Angela Booth

    Precisely so. Thanks for saying that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Moore/1375959658 Roger Moore

    The emailer is a jerk. No question about it. HOWEVER, for this preening small market diva to use her megaphone, her station’s air time, to beat down a nitwit, is as absurd as some of her other uses of her fame — “MY struggle with infertility,” etc. The fact that she’s a little overweight pales next to her thin skin. If you’re in journalism, you’re supposed to be above that. If you’re Jennifer Love Hewitt, you mine unwarranted personal criticisms to showbiz up (Yes, dear, you’re a star. In Lacrosse. We get it) your profile.

  • You don’t know me!

    People need to stop judging. I feel for this lady. Thyroid disease is an awful disease no matter which one you have. It may be almost impossible for her to loose weight if she is hypothyroid. I also have thyroid disease but the opposite of what she has and also thryroid eye disease. I have a terrible time gaining weight. So I know you are saying oh what a problem, but if everyone looked at you like you are on crack because you are so skinny and your eyes on any given day look like you are high as a kite, you would know how I feel. You never know what someone is going through or has gone through. We are all beautiful in every single way.

    Oh and her job is not to be “eye candy” but to bring us information.

  • jacqueline riser

    Yes, many of us struggle but let’s not become victims……he really only commented on her health aspect of role model…..Sometimes a rude awakening is what it takes to get us motivated….not ppl watching us practice self destructive behaviour and being silent…..Obviously she is a caring person….

  • jacqueline riser

    No, she didn’t have to explain but she also didn’t have to make a private email public….I have several friends who have thyroid dysfunction and most of them are average weight….I think we all use excuses to avoid the difficult things……I didn’t see the email as bullying…..maybe unnecessary but certainly not bullying……

  • Jacqueline Rodriguez

    Because it is not his role to point out to a grown woman that she’s overweight. Who is he to tell her she’s not a good role model? Unless he’s Jesus, come back from the grave, I am sure he is far from perfect. But really, he is no one to criticize her. Will he criticize color, people who eat red meat, people who don’t exercise? In a nutshell, he is not the Great Judge who can send an email to someone he doesn’t even know, pointing out a problem (that she knows about) and telling her that because of that she is not a good role model. That’s an illogical statement on its face. I can only pray that he doesn’t have daughters because you know he’ll give them inferiority complexes. While he’s at it, I wish he’d send a photo of himself so we can see what he looks like and then poke fun at him!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/my2_cents/ My2Cents

    I was about to ask that same question.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/my2_cents/ My2Cents

    I was about to ask that same question.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/my2_cents/ My2Cents

    A Beautiful Woman, inside and out, thank you for standing up and sharing.

  • Anonymous

    This Krause dude is a 20-megaton douchebomb. But, if he wants to grow up, be a big boy and stop being a douchebomb, I would be absolutely pleased to offer him any advice or support he would be willing to accept.
    Asswipe.

  • Anonymous

    Why, do the central planners require explanations for our weight now? Maybe you haven’t lived long enough to see the complete reversal of “preferred norms” in societies…but I have. The same science that you promote to rule over others lives, disproves itself about 1000 times a day…try really reading the research on coffee, cancer, sun exposure, smoking, obesity, neurological rehabilitation…the only thing the studies have in common is one sentence in the conclusion section: ” this study suggests that more studies are necessary..” so don’t drink coffee this week and drink 5 cups next week…whatever. There is a national pathology of control freaks that think they must tell others how to live…and its always for our own good. Give it a rest. Some of us have lived long enough to realize, what goes down, comes around.

  • Anonymous

    The point is not that you took measure of something about yourself and decided to make a change. The point is not free speech. The point is this national pathology that presumes to know what is good for them is good for someone else or what behavior that works for them is for others. Or that you have to act on your every thought or feeling and express it as a personal evaluation of someone elses right to be who they are. You don’t know what is right for this woman. Mr Krause does not know what is right for this woman. Your arrogance and presumptiousness, narcisstic need to tell her is what this is about. This is the same behavior that allows anyone to rationalize cruelty as a means that is justified by the ends that is “good for you”. Please go about your business, see yourself as wonderful based on your weight and your exercise program, but kindly leave others alone.

  • http://twitter.com/GregortheMendel Gregor Mendel

    Were you ever bullied? It leaves scars that never, ever disappear. Adult bullies rely on the shame of their victims and the resulting silence to maintain their air of innocence and superiority. As do sociopaths. No, I don’t keep my mouth shut about such behavior, either.

  • lansonfloyd

    I see this from a completely different perspective. Maybe some will agree, maybe I will be flamed. As you will soon realize, that’s OK either way.

    1st, That letter wasn’t bullying. I know bullying, I was a skinny pipsqueak of a kid and was harassed most of my high school life. That was constructive criticism and though she took offense to it, it wasn’t written with a shred of hate. I can feel the energy from words from someone in person, video, in writing, etc. (most of us can, just use your intuition, release ego, and you’ll feel it), and that letter had no negative energy. Her words on TV were SEETHING with negative presence. She was holding back a great deal in her choice of words but the heat from her words came through clearly.

    Now, what he wrote was a form of free speech. What she responded was the same. This is the foundation of our nation, our ability to say what we feel we want to say. It may offend some. But that’s what you must pay in order to remain FREE. Free speech is NOT harassment. Harassment is, at its core, imposing another will upon someone else. Harassment can come from free speech and can be another side effect of being FREE, when the right to speak freely is perhaps used to excess and for gain of another vs. just being able to express oneself. It is a problem, along with bullying in general. This little blown-up example however is NOT bullying.

    I feel your energy in those words, Livingston. I don’t know you from anybody else and, with the energy of hatred you put in your carefully selected words, I’m not sure I would want to. FYI I was overweight and out of shape, but I put in a little work and changed my diet a bit (mainly got rid of the soda and all the chemicals like HFCS, Aspartame, etc) and started doing some exercise like P90x and now I’m 50+ lbs lighter and WAY happier. Pretty simple.

  • http://twitter.com/Liz_i_iz Total Lisaster

    Is she even obese? I think she’s pretty attractive. Either way, you don’t have to be a supermodel to be a good journalist.

  • Jeff Sonier; Charlotte, NC

    Bullying, by definition, is the intimidation of someone weaker.
    A guy sends a private email, criticizing a popular local TV news anchor’s weight. It’s posted on the internet by the TV news anchor’s husband — who’s also a popular local TV news anchor, Then the TV news anchor uses her position on TV to blast the guy who sent her the private email, which only became public when her husband put it on his TV station Facebook page.
    The TV news anchor accuses the email writer of bullying, She goes on the morning talk shows, admitting “I wanted to call him out on it”, making him the target of nationwide criticism. But who’s the real bully here? One guy, who writes one private email? Or the husband-and-wife team of TV news anchors, using their very-public positions, their Facebook pages, their local TV audience, and now the national TV networks, to go after this guy?
    Seems to me they’re doing all the intimidating…

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.macfadden Christine Shelley MacFadden

    Holy moly. This ignorance is just astounding, no?
    It is my understanding that Jennifer Livingston suffers from thyroid disease, which I also have. And let me tell you, it is a STRUGGLE to lose weight no matter what you do – I happen to exercise regularly and eat right, but a person who doesn’t know me, would never know it. When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it slows down every. single. bodily. function. Including metabolism.
    But, we should all judge based on appearances, no? No!
    Not only that, but Jennifer HAS made it public that she struggled with infertility. The hormones they put you on for infertility can pack pounds on you quicker than you can snap your fingers.
    But, honestly, why should she HAVE to explain herself to ANYONE?? Who are you? Why does she need to answer to you? I can’t imagine you’re perfect in any way. Perhaps you should take a look within yourself and work on your own flaws rather than pointing out what everyone else needs to work on.

  • Lea Armstrong

    I would take it he doesn’t have children because he wouldn’t want to risk his wife “getting fat”. You know, it’s MEN like this that make women sick…literally. What he’s saying is that if you are overweight then you not healthy. Well that’s not completely true. My aunt has spent her whole life overweight and has NEVER had any health issues or diseases that have stemmed from it. My grandmother, mother and other aunts who were skinny, on the other hand, have had several medical issues from thyroid problems to heart problems. So, just the fact that you are overweight doesn’t make you unhealthy. Also, how healthy is it to be a skinny stick because you don’t want to offend the few that think you should be skinny? Not everyone can be a runway mode. Next, let’s not mention the fact that being on tv does make you look bigger than what you are. I wonder if Mr. Krause has all his hair, is physically fit has the perfect teeth…especially the perfect teeth because I take issue with people who don’t have nice teeth. What an idiot he is. I guess you can’t be a good role model unless you look like model??? WOW, if he is married his wife must be hiding her head in shame. Lastly, I have had thyroid issues all of my life and weight has always been a battle. I’ve lost weight only to have my thyroid knocked off balance…AGAIN…and make me gain the weight back. It’s a difficult road. Can it be done? Yes, but it’s not as easy as Mr. Krause would like to make it seem. He wrote that e-mail to her not knowing ANYTHING about her medical history. She could be on medication that makes her gain weight. I know my mother is. So, for him to make assumptions about someone just goes to show how he has only made an ass out of himself. WOW is all I can say to someone who thinks that they should be the monitor of public personalities and what they should or should not look like.

  • http://twitter.com/GigglesBee Cheryl

    Why should anyone have to explain their weight to anyone else? If she has a thyroid issue or if she’s taking medication for something else that actually causes weight gain, what business is that of yours? How does knowing WHY someone is overweight suddenly make them more appealing to you?

    Even IF she “just gobbles and eats too much 24/7″, it’s not your business. I can promise you one thing; no one who is overweight (especially the women) WANT to be overweight. They see that they’re overweight. They see all the negative comments about overweight women. It’s not a fun place to be. I say we should all just look past the outside and see the person inside.

  • http://twitter.com/hockeymom3019 ilene wiesenmayer

    You are an evil person! Just because someone looks appealing to you on the outside, you assume they are a good role model. How foolish and ignorant of you and the many others out there. We ALL struggle with something in our lives. Sometimes it is outwardly apparent, and sometimes not. Who are you to judge someone? Leave that to God.

  • ctowngirl

    Kenneth Krause needs to get a life. To have the time to send an email to a woman that doesnt even know he exists, not his wife, not dating on a news show he barely watches is just mind boggling. He really felt the need to send her an email? His dumb arse has a lot of emails to send then. Maybe he doesn’t realize that many football players are overwieght/obese, so is Dr, Phil, Ann Romney. Not to mention and a host of physicans, surgeons, nurses, lawyers, and I am sure plenty of people in his family.

    Jennifer Livingston doesn’t owe that ignorant fool or you any explaination. Hell her being a working mom with 3 kids to include and infant is good enough for me. He isn’t helping her by sending an email trying to corrlate her weight with her ability to be a positive role model!! He implies that skinny people are all good role models??? Ignorance and stupidity at its best! Like Livingston said, its a problem she is aware of. That is her and her husband’s business. Grouchy Krause needs to take a back seat. For all we know he may be some deadbeat dad or unemployed bum using a library computer to apply for a job at Walmart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 Anonymous

    other reax:
    1. LOL at her turning this into “Please think about the children”. Being fat shows a weakness in your character and you should try to lose weight instead of making a retarded 5 minute rant on why you’re so butthurt over an email.
    Unless you have a serious condition that stops you from exercising, there really is no excuse for being obese.
    分享移除檢舉評論封鎖使用者解除封鎖使用者2. yes its ok to be fat. you are the one thats gonna pay for the consequences, with heart problems, diabetes and much more. It is your choice to be unhealthy. Eating twinkeis and chugging it down with a can of coke, will get you fat. 2-3 a year over 20 years= 40-60 pounds.
    分享移除檢舉評論封鎖使用者解除封鎖使用者
    2. yes its ok to be fat. you are the one thats gonna pay for the consequences, with heart problems, diabetes and much more. It is your choice to be unhealthy. Eating twinkeis and chugging it down with a can of coke, will get you fat. 2-3 a year over 20 years= 40-60 pounds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 Anonymous

    But Lawyer Krause has a point, too, no? I don’t see what he wrote in his email as bullying but as trying to raise the alarm over weight issues, overweight issues specifically, and writing directly to the anchor in question, he was trying to help her lose weight and become more healthy, healthier, and also to set a better example on TV a visual medium for other obese people in the community and the nation at larage, no? Livingston still has not explained why she is so overweight, other than that she gained weight after having children, and that is understable and to be respected. However, after a certain period, it’s time to lose weight again and get back to healthy normal, especially on TV as a role model. For a print reporter, nobody can see. Candy Crowley is a bit zaftig too, no? ANd Rush Big Boy Limbaugh, no? And NJ Gov Christie, no? And CNN weather gal Ramos, no? If there is a genetic problem here, Livingston should explain. If she just gobbles and eats too much 24/7 and cannot control her eating behavior, Houston, there is a problem! America needs to wake up on this. Stop making excuses. Diabetes? Heart disease? You want more? Foreign countries look at America and say ”WHOA why so many fat people there?”