From the Bully Pulpit

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 9:52 am
By: Doug Lund
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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. 

Of course it’s also National Breast Cancer Awareness month, National Black History Month and National Popcorn Poppin’ Month. The point is, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to these designations aimed at calling my attention to some cause or event. But a TV anchor in Wisconsin has become something of a poster person for bullying prevention after a 4 minute video that aired on her station then went viral across the internet.

bully jen

Jennifer Livingston had received an e-mail from a viewer who chastised her for being overweight. Well, here’s what he wrote:

bully“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.”

Livingston and her husband, who is also an anchor at the LaCrosse TV station, decided to go public with the email calling it an example of bullying. The station management agreed to give her all the time she wanted to call out her accuser. Here’s part of what she said in an emotional video response that aired on WKBT:

Bully buzz quote

Before long people were calling for the emailer’s head on a platter and Jennifer was besieged with, and granting, requests for national interviews.

Was it bullying?

Stupid, insensitive, hurtful and classless yes..but bullying? I’m not so sure.  When an upper classman  used to shove me around and point out my pudginess at every opportunity in high school; that was bullying.  When a few of us boys bought a can of deodorant and put it in the desk of a hygiene-challenged classmate, that was stupid and insensitive but bullying?

Half the people in this country, including yours truly, are fat. So it’s not surprising that support and sympathy for Ms. Livingston has been overwhelming.  The local lawyer who wrote the email, Kenneth Krause, has been outed and, under enormous public pressure, apologized..saying he never meant to hurt Jennifer.

In all my years on local television, I don’t ever remember receiving a viewer letter critical of my appearance. Oh, wait, a few had trouble with some of my dubious wardrobe choices or whether my hair was actually MY hair  but that’s about it.  Women TV personalities, on the other hand, receive letters and comments all the time about how they look on the air and some are downright mean. I don’t know why some people can be so critical of females while guys usually get a pass. But I do know that it’s an old rule of journalism that reporters and anchors should never BE THE STORY and never use your position the in media for personal retribution. Basically, grin and bear it..shrug it off..develop a thick skin. Not easy to do when you’ve been hurt.

Ms. Livingston is asking that people take it easy on Krause and to leave him alone. She’s also starting to feel the heat of her national exposure as blogs and anonymous comments rip into her for being a publicity hound.

The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all follow our mother’s advice; “If you can’t say something good about someone, keep your mouth shut?”

A lesson she and her friends might have learned rubber-necking on the ol’ party line.


  1. Sweeps says:

    Sorry, the only thing I can agree with you on this one, Doug, is “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Remember the ol’ adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”? We were wrong. Words are VERY hurtful. If we allow someone to get by with this, it just keeps growing and growing. We call it bullying if a schoolmate calls another one fat and ugly on Facebook and Twitter. Those same words said to an adult are bullying as well. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post. I always look forward to your posts.

  2. Jeni says:

    I suppose each of us have our own perspective of “bullying.” Some may view the e-mail as an “oh, well,” while others view it as bullying, and some view it somewhere between “oh, well” to “bullying.”

    I don’t buy that the person who sent the e-mail did not mean to be hurtful.

    From early childhood through young adulthood, children and adults said cruel and hurtful things to me. Words hurt as much, if not more so, than being hit. I will never forget the adult who said to me, when I was around nine or ten years old, “The reason why you can’t hear well is because God is punishing you.” It took me a long, long time to recover from that.

    Saying or writing, hurtful comments are inappropriate, useless to the person who is the target of the comments.

    “Obsesity” is the “disease of the decade.” “Depression” was the previous “disease of the decade.” After as much money could be ilked out of the “depression” decade, the focus was shifted to weight.

    Obsesity being the “disease of the decade” will run its course just like all previous “diseases of the decade,” but unfortunately there will be many who will be victims of bullying.

  3. congruent triangles says:

    Seems to me that some how accross the board we have lost some of our thick skin and really anything can be attributed to anything anymore… I grew up in that area of the country and let me tell you what…most of the woman in that area are over wieght…. They are good German girls is what my Grandfather would say… LaCrosse has a Grounds there that is used for OCtoberfest and outdoor style buildings made for it…. That is hte home of old style and Special ex before being sold out to Miller in Milwaukee… LAst week I had a health screening only to be explained that I need to lose weight….The woman that told me this was well beyond overweight too… I took that as her delivering the message… that simple… I could have went another route and I suppose said how dare you tell me that I am overwieght… have you looked in a mirror etc… The only thing I saw was one person right of passage to tell her how they thought it should be… LaCroose is a old beer town… that has alway been opinionated…. ALL in ALL I am not sure anyone truelly knows the definition of bullying….

    Let me tell you a story there once was a kid when I was growing who was constantly chased by other boys on his bike everytime the other kids saw him they went after him… they would corner him and start beating on him… when he tried to go to the cops they did NOTHING…. NOTHING… and anyone that thinks that person did somthing to deserve it… they are wrong too… they came out of nowhere everytime… That was and is bullying short and simple… I am not sure the kid even knew the other kids names… Yet everytime you saw him he had new bruises and one day when I was turning my head from what was happening…. because of that mind your own business rule.. When I saw a police officer drive by and not help that is when I went to a his aid… YEt I am sure there will be someone out there who will explain to me this bullying definition… that seems to be everchanging with the need or the person…

    Doug thanks for your article it was appreciated and as you know not all can be liked…

  4. SD MOM says:

    This is bullying. For anyone interested in learning more about this subject, a great book to read is: The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, by Barbara Colorso.

    The definition of bullying is to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone).

    We typically think of bullying happening on the playground or in school but this can occur in the workplace as well. I think everyone can tell a story of being bullied, witnessing bullying or actually being the bully as well as what the reaction or result of it was to our lives. I know that growing up the lesson I learned was to be the bigger person and walk away. As a society we evolve and through research we now know that is not effective. It is time to educate ourselves and empower or youth to eliminate this behavior.

    “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go. “
    ~ Rachel Joy Scott, victim of Columbine shooting in Littleton Colorado

  5. Donna Marcy says:

    Hello Jennifer,
    I work with teens a Boys and Girls Clubs, I was asked to do a video on bullying. As I was doing my research I came across your video, let me say that I was Inspired!!! I used your comment at the start of my video, and I want to let you know that I Appreciate You for Taking a Stand against that Bully. I was Bullied in high school, so I know what it feel like to be attack for no reason. Once I have finished my video I would love to send you a copy since it was your words that Inspired me.
    Stand Together!!! Lets Stop Bullying

  6. Hemmingsen says:

    Fat chicks rule! Fat guys, too. I’m fat as hell and not going to take it anymore!

  7. Hemmingsen says:

    Sorry. I couldn’t resist…

  8. Mary C Der Hagopian says:

    Good for you Steve, agree wholeheartedly. Many years ago, after having my 2nd child, I dieted to get back to an “ideal” weight. But, when I went to the Doctor for my six week check up, my blood pressure was at a point where it was like sitting on a powder keg. He said to stop dieting, my body type (assuming inherited genes) was just meant to be heavier. It most certainly was not stress from the newborn, he was sleeping through the night at 2 weeks. That was really a blessing!!

  9. Lisa McKay says:

    I have been bullied at my job site for over 20 years and nothing is ever done about it.I was a single mother and the words, harrassement, and actions hurt. You hear it day after day. It has caused health problems which my DR told me it would be my health or job.W hen driving home from I am so stressed that I am sick to my stomach. There are others that steal, cheat, and lie and they get by with it and nothing is ever said to them. I wish that these people who are doing the bullying would have to live with what I go thro every day. I need to work because of insurance and with being over 60 who wants to start over???? They should have to be punished because it is the same as domestic abuse.

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