Leslie Horton had no problem responding to a body-shaming viewer this week, gaining a huge amount of public support for the measured and calm way she approached his rude comments about her looks.
Horton, an anchor and traffic reporter for Global News Calgary, was in the middle of the show’s broadcast last Thursday when an email appeared in the station inbox from a male viewer.
Horton quickly switched from reporting the day’s traffic conditions to addressing the correspondence.
“I’m just going to respond to an email that I just got saying, ‘Congratulations on your pregnancy; if you’re going to wear old bus driver pants, you have to expect emails like this,'” Horton said.
What came next, however, was a masterclass in burying a troll.
“No, I’m not pregnant. I actually lost my uterus to cancer last year, and this is what women of my age look like. So, if it’s offensive to you, that is unfortunate. Think about the emails you send,” she continued, referencing her 2021 endometrial cancer diagnosis.
Horton says this isn’t the first time she’s heard from this particular mean-spirited viewer — she told Global National‘s Dawna Friesen he’s been emailing her “for probably about four years now,” but up until this particular broadcast her plan was just to “ignore, ignore, ignore” his remarks.
“I had no plans to address the nasty email online, I put it aside and prepared for my next traffic report as usual, but as I started my traffic hit those words just came out of my mouth … didn’t plan them, rehearse them, know I was going to say them … they just came from my heart,” she said.
“I think what it might have been is I had a pretty public cancer battle last year and I lost my uterus. And lots of viewers knew about that. So to say to a 59-year-old woman who lost her uterus to cancer, ‘Congratulations on your pregnancy,’ is mean. It was meant to shame me, to humiliate me, to embarrass me. And I found my line and I said, ‘No, you may not know.'”
Don’t be mistaken, though. Horton says her response wasn’t done in anger. Rather, she says, it was “quite calm and it was very, very authentic.”
Horton says all women in broadcasting are familiar with unkind emails from viewers, attacking their looks, clothing and more, and “tend to just put them aside and ignore them,” but not addressing them can “take a toll.”
By calling out the troll, Horton’s words clearly struck a chord with a lot of people.
After Global Calgary shared a clip to X on Tuesday, Horton says she’s faced an overwhelming amount of support from around the world, and news outlets from all over North America have been keen to speak with her.
On social media she’s been called a “hero” and “brave,” with others sharing their own stories of online harassment and bullying.
Michael Kehler, masculinities research chair at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education, told Global News he felt “a mixture of surprise and then not surprise” when he first viewed the clip.
He said it highlights the long-standing fact that some men feel a “kind of licence or sense of entitlement” to pass judgment on and belittle women, “particularly women in positions of authority, in positions of power.”
In this case, Kehler said Horton “very appropriately responded” and that her measured and calm approach, addressing the comments head-on, was tactful and clear.
But he said that what will ultimately hold people accountable for their actions is when more people stand up against misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and other shaming behaviours in their everyday lives.
“It is a responsibility that we all have in terms of questioning these kinds of comments and to really call out our peers. Call them on these kinds of statements.”
— With files from Global News’ Adam Toy