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The line is fuzzy between freedom of expression and bullying.

There are times to keep opinions to yourself.

Wisconsin news anchor, Jennifer Livingston, enjoys the same advantage as Taylor Swift. A public platform to get revenge against someone who offended her. Enter Taylor Swift’s life at your own risk because if you end up on her bad side, you’ll live with your indiscretions on the radio for months. Offend a news anchor and she will have the last word on air at your expense.

Jennifer Livingston received a letter from a male viewer, Kenneth Krause, urging her to take control of her weight because she has a responsibility on the air to promote a healthy lifestyle. He refers to her obesity as a “choice.”  Jennifer publicly addressed this viewer in a compelling dialog and called Kenneth Krause a bully. Her purpose for addressing the letter publicly was to expose bullying in order to protect children who are less apt to defend themselves.

I love to witness revenge at its best. Disguised as an altruistic move, which no doubt was a sincere part of her rebuttal, she used her clout, public exposure, to say to this guy, “Screw you! Here’s what I think of your letter!”  I say “Woo Hoo, Jennifer! Good for you!”

The best way to deal with a bully is to refuse to be his victim. Jennifer Livingston refused. And she had the last word. Teach your children that skill and they’ll never be bullied.

What would Kenneth Krause say to an obese cardiologist?  What about an overweight PE teacher?  Or the one who’s teaching a health segment in science class?  And what about the morbidly obese former KU football coach, Mark Mangino? What were the players thinking when he barked at them to run faster wind sprints?

Do certain professions require that you be a role model for others?  Must you practice what you preach?

A role model is defined as “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.”

Role models gain the title based on specific traits, behaviors or talents causing others to take notice. No one person can be a role model for everything. We all have faults. It is up to each of us to decide who our role models are because we want to imitate what we want to improve in ourselves.

Jennifer Livingston is a news anchor, not a health advocate selling a fitness book. An aspiring journalist might choose her as a role model. Her weight has nothing to do with her talent.

On the other hand, I would not hire a personal trainer that wasn’t totally buff. I like my role models to “walk the talk.” I want the visual reminder that they believe so much in what they say that they live it themselves.

Being in the public eye doesn’t make you a role model. I like Lady Gaga’s music but that doesn’t mean she’s my role model. Many want to imitate Tiger Woods’ golf swing but don’t want his advice on marriage.

We decide who we choose to be our role models. The role model doesn’t choose us.

It’s critical we teach children the difference between admiration and emulation. If we place people on pedestals, it better have multiple tiers. Whereas imitating a desirable behavior is specific.

Kenneth Krause believes the public can obligate someone to be a role model in an area that isn’t even their expertise. That’s what makes his letter to Livingston so outrageous. Would Krause find a congressman’s infidelity as more or less influential on the public as Jennifer Livingston’s body weight?

Regardless of that answer, does he have the right to express it out loud?

Should we condemn free speech that is hurtful by calling it bullying?  Does free speech go too far if it hurts the feelings of others?

This world is full of cruel comments, especially in social media and reality television. These days stabbing in the front is a prime time blockbuster.

I think our best defense isn’t to stifle it. It’s to expose it. Fight ignorance with fact. Fight injustice with compassion. Rally behind those who need support. And most importantly, refuse to engage those who attack others by attacking them in the same manner.

Jennifer Livingston crafted her comeback to impact the greater good. A brilliant tactic to bust the bubble of a bully. Droves of supporters have rallied to her side.

Freedom of speech has its downside. To criticize someone already struggling is insensitive and harsh. Those who do so should turn that mirror on themselves.

Rather than shut people up, better we develop a thick skin. Sometimes the harshest criticisms to take are those that contain some truth. Our goals depend on our willingness to persist despite these verbal curve balls. Hear criticism, strip it down and separate personal attacks from constructive commentary. Learn to be a great sifter.

I commend Jennifer Livingston for reminding all of us that words are weapons that can leave scars for a lifetime.

"Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience."


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  1. John Denne #


    I appreciate your article as it reminds me of something that I learned growing up: just because you can do something (in this case, free speach) does not mean that you should. A mature individual is one who sees the difference and whose actions are consistent with that belief.

    My Best


    October 18, 2012
    • fitskitz

      Well said, John. You are SO right. Honesty does not mean we need to abandon tact, kindness and empathy. Thanks for chiming in:)

      October 21, 2012

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