I can’t stop thinking about Leslie Horton’s spontaneous clapback to a vicious viewer email on live TV

Leslie Horton – a Global TV traffic reporter

Leslie Horton – a Global TV traffic reporter – was moments from going on air to do her job when she read a fresh email in her inbox. It was an uncalled-for and disgusting message from a viewer who felt compelled to share their unsolicited opinion about her pants, telling her she looked pregnant.

Moments later, Leslie went on air, and despite it being against everything she would normally be advised to do, she did exactly what needed to be done: she reacted. It was a response that has gone viral for all the right reasons. Sometimes, I wish I had done that.

Up until recently, I was a morning show TV anchor. You would be amazed by what people decide to write to me. When a nasty email came through, it would send me into a tailspin of emotions. I have thick skin and can handle criticism with grace, but these emails or posts on social media were something I believe most people would never say out loud to me in person.

I can remember finishing a four-hour show, exhausted but proud, ready to change out of my heels into my sneakers to attend the daily editorial meeting, all the while dreading checking my email for fear I would find someone with keyboard anonymity had fired off a note to tell me how they felt about me. As if I needed to know.

The emails that hit me the hardest were the ones that questioned why I would take a day off. Like clockwork, whenever I had been away, I would almost always face a viewer email asking why I was not there. I understand there is a feeling of familiarity with the people on your TV, who are in your living room every day, and you come to expect to see them, but this always felt invasive. I knew better than to let a viewer’s email about a day off impact my ability to take a day I needed, but it always left a bitter taste in my mouth. I won’t soon forget when I had to take a couple of days off to handle my mom’s ailing health. I was worried and wanted to sort things out with my family. The following day a woman wrote in scolding me for not being on the show and for taking too much time off. She accused me of not being able to handle the job’s duties and demanded I be fired for not being there.   

Leslie’s bravery in saying out loud what every on-air woman has felt is empowering – not only from the perspective of a female TV personality, but for any woman, period.

Read about: Vassy Kapelos – Canadian political journalist, currently serving as the chief political correspondent for CTV News

How many of us have had to keep quiet in moments when we were insulted, berated, or undermined just to “keep the peace”? Whose peace are we trying to keep? In the TV world, on-air personalities will often stay quiet about online trolls. They won’t engage; they won’t respond. Doing so would only feed into what the sender wants: attention.

But why should we stay quiet? Why should we field rude and personal emails about our haircuts, our wardrobe, our weight? Why not call out the jerks of the world? Leslie’s response was precise and landed exactly as it should: want to criticize an interview? Sure. Want to tell me what you think about my body? Shut up. 

It’s another reminder that the way women are treated is still far from equal. It is highly unlikely that email would have been sent to a man wearing the same pants. I worked alongside many male co-hosts, and I can tell you it was a very rare occurrence for them to receive this kind of feedback.

I work in PR now, and I advise capable, smart, and successful women all the time not to engage with negative comments online. The reason I do this is the same reason I didn’t do anything to respond to the trolls when I was the one receiving the emails: 

Your opinions of me are none of my business. Stick to minding your own.

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