PORTLAND, Ore. - A weekend news anchor and TV reporter in Portland, Oregon, is doubling down on her preference for high-waisted pants after a male viewer told her to "dress like a normal woman" in a message sent to her Facebook work account.
Maggie Vespa, who works at Portland's NBC affiliate KGW-TV, posted photos of herself wearing a different pair of high-waisted pants on five separate news casts over the weekend because she wanted to draw attention to the pressure that women who work in the public eye face daily.
Vespa, a nine-year veteran of broadcast journalism, also delivered an on-air commentary about the remarks on Sunday's late-night news with the support of her managers, she said in a phone interview Monday.
"I'm a pretty secure person but 10 years ago this would have rattled me," she said. "I probably would have stopped wearing whatever that guy was criticizing and I would have gone out there with my minuscule paycheck and tried to buy some more clothes and tried to adjust. I remember that time, and I just thought if someone is starting out and getting comments like this, me calling it out for what it is might make it easier for them."
Vespa said she received two messages from the viewer before blocking him. She declined to identify the person by name and a video segment accompanying her on-air commentary blacked out the name as well.
In one, he said she looked ridiculous in pants that "ride half-way up your torso."
"Please change your wardrobe. You're way too pretty to look so foolish," the viewer wrote.
She replied to him and said she would not change her attire, prompting the viewer to write back while she was on the air live on Friday. In that message, he wrote, "OMG you really looked uncomfortably (sic) tonight. Try dressing like a normal woman. Doesn't KGW pay you enough for a wardrobe makeover?"
Her male co-workers were shocked, she said, but this kind of incident is not new for women who work on TV.
Vespa said she shared the comments with her mother, who also worked as a news anchor in Peoria, Illinois.
"She talked about getting horrible, toxic comments from people and unbelievably sexist things that make this look pale in comparison," Vespa said. "So I just thought, 'Let's say something.'"
Vespa covers Portland's homelessness crisis for KGW and works as the station's weekend news anchor.