Over the past few days, everyone has been talking about Jennifer Livingston, the Wisconsin morning news anchor who responded on the air to a male viewer’s email about her weight. In his letter, the male viewer told Livingston that she wasn’t a “suitable example” for young people because of her physical appearance. Her courageous counterpoint went viral, and ever since, she’s been making her rounds on the TV talk show circuit to address what she thinks is the root of the problem, and why people think letters like this are acceptable: bullying.
Now, you may be asking yourself why I chose to write about this today. To be honest, when I first watched Livingston’s video on Tuesday night, I really had no intention to do so. I thought that she was a very strong woman who chose to stand up for herself, and really, for all overweight people, but that her four-minute segment didn’t need to be addressed here at Above the Law. (Not even after being asked in the comments yesterday whether I thought I was a “good role model,” an obvious jab about my own weight.)
But then I found out a little more about the man who emailed Livingston to criticize her weight. As it turns out, he’s a lawyer….
So what did this particular lawyer — Kenneth W. Krause, a personal injury attorney from Wisconsin — say that inspired such a response? Here are his words, in relevant 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. 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.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a clip of Livingston’s on-air response to the email she received:
Here’s a brief textual summary of Livingston’s words if you can’t watch at work:
“The truth is I am overweight. You could call me fat and yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart. 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. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family, and you have admitted that you don’t watch this show so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside — and I am much more than a number on a scale.”
Now that everything’s out on the table, let’s chat briefly about lawyers, and why they think they can say such rude things without apology or reprimand. As you know, at Above the Law, we do not actively moderate our comments, and with that lack of real-time moderation comes a constant influx of some of the most disgusting vitriol imaginable from lawyers, law students, and would-be lawyers, nationwide.
We do our readers a courtesy by posting a warning that the comments are hidden for their protection, but we, your editors, are the ones who have to slog through them every day. Needless to say, it takes a very, very thick skin to deal with daily assaults on everything from your intelligence, to your looks, to your weight.
That’s why when I was asked yesterday if I thought I was a “good role model,” I responded like so: “What, are my words too fat for you?” Unlike Jennifer Livingston, people don’t have to look at me every day; all they have to do is read my words. I am overweight — or fat, or obese, or whatever else you’d like to call me — but our readers could imagine my pieces coming from a svelte supermodel if they so pleased.
But like Livingston’s critic, most of our readers don’t know me, and they never will. They don’t know why I look like this, and they certainly don’t know if I did it to myself, or if it’s because of a medical ailment that I may have. All they do know is that I’m very good at taking their abuse. So that being said, like it or not, I’m going to keep writing, and if your perception of my appearance is too much for you to keep reading, then so be it.
I think that Livingston is spot-on when it comes to her overall message: we cannot let our self-worth be dictated by bullies. I know what some of you must be thinking: “What a sad world it is that we live in when people’s feelings are more important than their health.” This may be news to you, but people’s feelings are a part of their overall health (which is why therapists like Will Meyerhofer have a constant stream of patients).
Feelings do matter. Just because you can say whatever you want in the comments does not mean that you should. Lawyers, like our commenters and like Kenneth Krause, are supposed to be well-spoken and intelligent, but when they resort to anonymously bullying people online, they feed into this profession’s bad reputation. Just because you’re a lawyer does not give you the right to freely pass judgment on others. Yes, I get it: sometimes the truth hurts. But there are much more eloquent ways to say some of the things that are being said. Why continue to allow the legal profession’s good name to be dragged through the mud?
As for Kenneth Krause — a crusader for “community responsibility,” and a man whose name was essentially dragged through the mud this week — he still doesn’t feel inclined to apologize or retract his comments. In fact, he issued a statement laced with legalese to the effect of, “Yep, this bitch is still pretty damn fat”:
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.
You know, perhaps Krause should set a suitable example for young people by not being such a douche.
P.S. As many of our readers know, I am attempting to lose as much weight as I can in order to avoid looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Bride at my upcoming wedding. Thus far, I have lost 31 pounds, but I realize I still have a very, very long way to go. I am making this change not so that I can be a “good role model,” but so that I can remain just as confident as I am about the way I look — but with better clothing options. To the many readers who have offered me advice, I thank you, and welcome any additional tips and tricks that you’ve got!
TV Anchor Takes on Viewer Who Complains About Her Weight [The Lede / New York Times]
Lawyer Sticks to His Assertion: TV Anchor Is Too Fat [ABA Journal]