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John Mercure: Mercurey Rising

Jennifer Livingston

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This is Jennifer Livingston.  She is the morning anchor at WKBT TV in LaCrosse.

Jennifer was sent a series of what she calls 'cruel' emails by a viewer, Kenneth Krause, last week.  The emails say that she is a poor role model because she is obese.  Krause tells her that she has an obligation to get in better shape to be an example for her viewers.  He wrote her, 'Obesity is one of the worse choices a person can make."

How does he know she made the choice? Maybe she has a medical condition. Maybe she has been trying to lose weight.  Maybe it's none of her business.

Jennifer took the airwaves Monday with a four minute video editorial where she points out that Krause doesn't know her and shouldn't judge her.  She then launches into a talk about how kids shouldn't put up with bullying because of their weight or complexion or disability.  The video has gone viral.

We conducted the first interview with Livingston yesterday on Wisconsin's Afternoon News. She is warm and friendly and says she never wanted this fight.  "As soon as he (Krause) reached out to me with that email I responded to him hoping that we could talk about this," Livingston told me.  "He didn't back down.  He thinks I'm a poor role model and I just don't agree with that."

Livingston tells me she then shared the email with some of her friends in the newsroom. "They were stunned. I didn't think it was that bad, but the 5:00 anchor began tearing up as i was talking," Livingston says. 

She also shared the email with her husband, who anchors the evening news at WKBT. He was, understandably upset.  He posted it on his station Facebook page and viewers came forward in droves to defend Livingston. "I was amazed. I was touched and feel lucky to have viewers, who accept me for who I am," Livingston told me over the phone.

Now today Krause is not backing down.  I have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to reach him on the phone. Today Krause told the Associated Press, "Given this country's present epidemic of obesity and many truly horrific 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 children by transforming herself for all her viewers to see over the next year."

OK.  I know this kind of guy.  I am very familiar with this type of smug self righteous guy.  I was a TV reporter for almost 20 years and now I host a radio show on a 50,000 watt radio station.  I hear from all kinds of people.  Only a small fraction of their feedback actually had or has anything to do with the actual content of my reporting. Over at WTMJ TV there were times when I would do a report that landed bad guys in jail or led to a change in the law and I would come back to my desk to find emails that criticized the tie I was wearing or asked me if I got a haircut. 

I also had, and still have, my share of total nutcases that would, and do, reach out to me.  I got some of the most vile, nasty emails you can imagine. I want to give you one example that shows you the craziness and scary disposition of some viewers.

I did a TV story on one of Wisconsin's worse deadbeat dads.  This guy owed more than $100,000.  He was living high on the hog in Las Vegas. We went to Nevada to find this guy.. and we did.  I confronted him and then we came back and did a story on what a deadbeat loser this guy was.  It was a tough story.

Shortly after the story aired I began getting very nasty emails and voicemails from the deadbeat's sister.  The emails got nastier and nastier.  Eventually this woman started sending me death threats.  We got the police involved and restraining orders were filed.  Things quieted down. I began to relax.  And then one morning, Valentine's Day actually, I cam in and opened my email to find a message from this woman.  The subject line was "Death Comes to You Soon".  The body of the email was a copy of an airline ticket with her name and the date February 14th. The destination was Milwaukee. It was, needless to say, quite nerve wracking.  Police went to the airport and there she was getting ready to board the plane.  She was detained.  I have never heard from her again.

I guess my bottom line is that we need more kindness. We need more understanding.  We need more tolerance. And some people need to mind their own business.

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