Matthew Lickona 11 a.m., May 23
A video of an overweight news anchor responding to an email regarding her appearance as a public figure, has gone viral. The person in question, Jennifer Livingston, redirected the topic of the email to bullying.
So far, the media coverage on this has been nothing except supportive of Ms. Livingston and her response to the “cruel letter” and “a bully’s harsh words” and “a viewer’s outrageous attack”.
The text of the email was aired during Ms. Livingston’s response and I’m scratching my head to find the harsh words, the attack, or the bullying.
Here is the text of the email:
“Hi Jennifer, It's unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. 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.”
Is this an attack? Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make. Obesity is a dangerous habit. It would be great if public figures presented and promoted healthy lifestyles. Ms. Livingston’s physical condition has not improved. She is not a suitable example of health.
Where is the attack? These appear to be truthful statements made with a calm, well-thought-out tone.
Ms. Livingston’s response:
“The truth is, I am overweight. You can 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? …Now I am a grown woman, and luckily for me I have a very thick skin, literally — as that email pointed out — and otherwise. That man's words mean nothing to me, but what really angers me about this is is there are children who don't know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day.”
No one called her fat. No one directly called her obese. No one used cruel words. Which of the words in that email are cruel?
Cruel words are words such as, “tubby”, “lard-ass”, “pig”, etc. Those words were not used. The only word used was obese. Obese is not a cruel word.
Ms. Livingston claims the man’s words mean nothing to her but she’s concerned about the children. No children were involved in this interaction. This was a private email sent from an adult to another adult. Ms. Livingston frames the real issue for us,
“The internet has become a weapon and our schools have become a battleground and this behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that email. 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. We need to teach our children to be kind, not critical and we need to do that by example.”
If we look at that statement it is completely scorched earth. She has just told us all that this man is using the internet as a weapon, is setting a bad example for his bully children, and his example is teaching them to be critical instead of kind.
It is also untruthful. No one called her the fat news-lady in that email.
I am still wondering how this was bullying? How were these words outrageous? To hope that someone reconsiders promoting a healthy lifestyle is not bullying. To say that they are promoting a bad image to girls is not bullying. To say that supermodels promote a bad image of health to girls is not considered bullying to supermodels, is it?
Who took a private email and has now blown it into a national discussion? Why did this happen in Wisconsin but I’m writing about it in San Diego?
The bully in this situation is Ms. Livingston. She has taken his, perhaps misguided email, and blasted him on television as a bully and a bad parent.
Did you ever express an opinion to someone, just between the two of you, only to have that person tell every single person in the school? That is bullying. No, the person involved here was not named but the point has been driven home.
The outpouring of support for Ms. Livingston only goes to show how much we support obesity as a culture. Yes, we are obese but don’t anyone dare say it or else you’re a bully and furthermore you’re enabling bullies across the country and you’re raising bully children. Does that make any sense?
What if Ms. Livingston had gone on air and said that she had been challenged to address her weight and lifestyle issues by a viewer? What if over the next year she lost the weight she’s been wanting to lose for years? What if she started a program for her community to go on walks with her as she progressed?
None of that will happen.
Instead, Ms. Livingston has chosen to become the victim of what she has chosen to call a bully. However, she is wrapping her victim-hood up as concern for children and turning it into a virtue.
Here is Ms. Livingston’s dramatic conclusion,
“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.”
She has misdirected the entire conversation away from obesity and toward bullying and we as a nation will buy that as valid. How can she bring race, sexuality, disabled children, and acne into a discussion about obesity?
I’m obese? Well, you’re a bully and nobody likes a bully. Game, set, and match to Ms. Livingston except we weren’t playing tennis, we were playing golf.
If the issue is obesity then address obesity. Ms. Livingston may as well have said that the man’s words meant nothing to her but what really angers her is Iran’s policy toward Israel or the way the replacement refs stole a win from her Packers on Monday Night Football.
It makes no sense.
The winner in this whole situation is obesity because not only has it been justified, it has been transformed into the virtue of a kind-hearted news anchor who is concerned for all children of all abilities, all races and all sexualities who would rather bravely stay overweight than let a bully win.