Bloopers That Got These Reporters Fired

We all make little blunders at work, but most of us don't get mocked across the internet for them. (Fred from accounting just doesn't have that kind of social media pull, and accidentally typing "Plinsky" throughout the Plonsky memo just isn't that hilarious.) But those who read and report our news have ridiculously little margin for error, and the public nature of their bloopers can not only result in millions of viral views, but can sometimes earn them a pink slip. Put down your eraser, forget about Plonsky for a few minutes, and be glad that you're not any of these people.

You had me at hello

Ordinarily, the first few words from the mouth of a rookie news anchor in a brand new market would be something along the lines of "Hello, my name is [blank]." But A.J. Clemente, on his first day on the job at North Dakota NBC affiliate KFYR, decided on a more novel approach. As his co-anchor Van Tieu was about to introduce him, Clemente inexplicably blurted out, "Gay ... f–king s–t," words newscasters are generally encouraged to avoid.

Clemente was obviously unaware that his microphone was live, and Tieu attempted valiantly to redeem the segment, allowing Clemente to properly introduce himself. This went nearly as well as his informal introduction, as he tripped over his words ("I'm used to, um, you know, from being, um, from the in– East Coast") and launched into his first segment sounding like he was talking through a mouthful of dice. Amazingly, producers allowed him to limp through the rest of the broadcast before canning him like a ham just a few hours later. Visitors to the station's Facebook page tried to get them to reconsider, with one noting "The news itself is way more offensive than AJ's language," but to no avail. 

Celebrating an assassin

When Lebanese politician Walid Eido was assassinated in Beirut in 2007, not everybody was torn up about it. Least of all National Broadcasting Network anchor Sawsan Darwish, who became another victim of the sneaky hot mic while chatting about the incident, which she was in the middle of covering, with a co-worker.

"So why did it take them so long to kill him?" she casually asks the unidentified man, which audibly cracks them both up a little bit. As if that weren't bad enough, she goes on to helpfully suggest which Parliament member should be targeted next, which seems to be a bit too far for the co-worker, who chastises her not to revel in the misfortunes of others. She responds, "It's not glee, but we've had enough of them."

Darwish was immediately fired ... for three months. Then NBN reinstated her, which didn't sit well with some observers. She issued an on-air apology, though it'd be nice if she promised to refrain from inciting assassinations in the future.

Offensive to everyone

Avery Haines, broadcaster for Canada's CTV NewsNet, actually had no reason to think that her stuttered words would ever go out on the air. She was taping a segment, which would mean that someone in the control room would have to make a terrible mistake for her blunder to be broadcast later. Of course, this is exactly what happened — and unfortunately for Haines, her flub wasn't the problem. The problem was the perfectly pronounced and wildly inappropriate remarks she made afterward, consisting of a bizarre comedic rant slandering everybody under the sun. 

After pausing the taping because of a small stutter, Haines found her groove and began riffing. "I kind of like the stuttering thing. It's like equal opportunity, right? We've got a stuttering newscaster. We've got the black, we've got the Asian, we've got the woman. I could be a lesbian, folk dancing, black woman stutterer. In a wheelchair ... with a gimping, rubber leg."

After Amateur Night at NewsNet went out on the air, Haines insisted she was being self-deprecating and didn't mean to be offensive, but you just the read the words she said with her mouth on television, which means her Canadian bosses politely fired her and she politely left.

Farewell, foulmouth

As the late local news broadcast wound down on KSN in Wichita, Kansas, anchor Justin Kraemer signed off with a version of the same spiel that pretty much every late night news anchor uses. The end-of-broadcast music was playing, the cameras had cut away to a lovely view of the city at night, and viewers were settling in for Saturday Night Live. But just as the musical cue ended, Kraemer offered them one last muttered parting shot: "Let's get the f–k out of here."

Now, if you had a nickel for every time somebody has uttered just this at the end of a long work day, you'd have a ball of nickels the size of the Sun. But Kraemer's comment to his co-workers went out over a hot mic, and he ended up recovering from his super-long day with an extended vacation. (He was fired.) But Kraemer wasn't upset; in fact, it sounded like he would have fired himself: "I did something extraordinarily unprofessional. It's something that's drilled into you from the minute you start in this business to always consider the microphones hot." He took some time off before mounting an unsuccessful bid for the State Legislature, running on a platform of tax fairness, but either he couldn't shake his reputation or it's hard for a Democrat to win in Kansas. One of those.

Fake 'Asian' names

Oakland station KTVU is responsible for a viral story that you've probably seen and assumed it was fake. After all, no reputable news broadcast on Earth could let slip such an obvious, juvenile prank. But it's not fake. It's all too real, and decades from now, journalism students will still be studying the case in classes with names like Don't Turn Your News Organization Into a Laughingstock 101. 

In reporting on the names of the pilots involved in the 2014 crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, anchor Tori Campbell read dutifully from an onscreen graphic that was clearly a terrible joke. The NTSB had confirmed, she said, that the pilots' names were Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, and Bang Ding Ow. The NTSB had, of course, confirmed no such thing, and before long it was reported that as a result of their racist improv, three producers were sent packing with a fourth leaving for "health reasons." Perhaps he was getting tired of co-workers beating the crap out of him. KTVU has diligently tried to scrub all records of the fiasco from the internet, but if diligence were their strong suit, it never would have happened in the first place.

How do you measure success?

Whether Comcast Sportsnet reporter Susannah Collins committed a simple slip of the tongue or a slip of a more Freudian nature is debatable, but if you happen to be a Chicago Blackhawk, you're definitely convinced it's the latter. Reporting outside the NHL team's locker room, Collins explained that players were telling her that the playoffs were all that mattered despite the "tremendous amounts of sex" they had been having during the regular season, which a few of the players' partners may have been a little surprised to hear.

To her credit, Collins quickly corrected herself (she meant to say "success," of course) and carried on with the spot as though embarrassment wasn't exploding across every fiber of her being with the force of a supernova. But as if that weren't punishment enough, the network's manager announced three days later that she was being let go for reasons "unrelated" to the blooper: Collins had formerly been the host of a raunchy show called "Sports Nutz," which was cited as the reason for her firing. (Producers had to have looked at her resume when she was hired.) Considering the timing, their excuse sounds about as plausible as a Chicago Blackhawk not getting lucky every night.

Bashing welfare recipients

New Yorkers are not known for mincing words, and anchor Matt Pieper was no exception. But problematically, the words Pieper did not mince were super-offensive and broadcast live, as a casual conversation with a field reporter took a hard left turn into bashing those on public assistance, which a forgetful sound man made sure everybody heard. 

Allegedly speaking for a producer that was talking to him in his earpiece, Pieper instructs the reporter that "Dave wants you to also mention that parents should do their f–king job and walk their little kids to school on their own, and not rely on everyone else, kind of like people rely on government assistance for their entire lives." The reporter chuckles nervously while Pieper adds, "Well, I added the part about government assistance, but it's true."

That last bit kind of deflated his post-firing assertion that he had merely been parroting someone else's words — the mysterious Dave, who may or may not be a floating, talking banana that only Pieper can see. But Pieper was only out of work for a few months before picking up another gig at CBS News Radio, so hopefully he didn't have to rely on those unemployment checks for too long.

Still using Roman numerals

Most on-air mistakes are simple slips of the tongue, and not due to some serious processing error in the brain of the newsreader. But one such reader for India's state media agency Doordarshan — which has long been in decline as India's media has exploded in diversity — seemingly had such a glitch while reporting on the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2014. The presenter misinterpreted Jinping's first name as Roman numerals, and referred to the president live on the air as "Eleven."

Since Stranger Things had not yet premiered in 2014, nobody thought this was cool, with Doordarshan news chief Archana Datta calling the error "grave." The substitute news reader, one of many freelance subs employed by the company, was dropped like a hot potato for the crime of making the stuffy old state news agency interesting again for about 4 seconds.

MLK Day 'mixup'

Las Vegas weatherman Rob Blair was right in the middle of a segment — indeed, right in the middle of a sentence — when his career at KTNV ended. Sharp-eared viewers literally heard it crash to the ground and shatter into a million pieces before Blair could even finish telling them what the weather would be like for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Of course, the fact that he had uttered an unprintable racial slur in between the words "Luther" and "King" had probably gotten their attention first. Blair professionally wrapped up his segment as if he hadn't just done the least professional thing imaginable, and that was the last viewers would see of him.

Unbelievably, this has happened more than once. ESPN reporter Mike Greenberg did the exact same thing years later, somehow managing to keep his job after explaining that he had simply mashed up the words "King" and "Junior." Whether it was an honest mistake or not, some news outlets couldn't help but point out that the first man to publicly make this "mistake" was Joseph Smitherman, the mayor of Selma, Alabama, in 1965. So not a great precedent.

Pensive performance

If you've ever been caught futzing off at work, daydreaming or picking your nose or whatever, you probably just got treated to the gentle suggestion that you remove your head from your rectum and carry on with your work. Not so for poor Natasha Exelby, an Australian news anchor who was destined to become a blooper meme the instant her expression of exaggerated shock registered with the camera. 

Exelby had apparently lost track of time, space, and everything else except her pen while a pre-recorded segment was playing, and her moment of realization blazed across the internet like a wildfire made of hilarity. To add insult to getting memed, Exelby was only a weekend anchor, and her producers had apparently undergone surgical procedures to remove their senses of humor. Word got out almost immediately that Exelby had been fired, which news director Gavin Morris unconvincingly backtracked on by saying she wasn't being punished or fired, just removed from the air. For her part, Exelby tweeted that it was "not her finest hour" and blamed her "mesmerizing pen."