It goes without saying that live news can be an intimidating thing for journalists. Besides the pressure of keeping their composure in front of millions of TV viewers, reporters must also face the unexpected and deal with unforeseen problems in a collected manner. Yet while most anchors have no problem keeping their cool under challenging circumstances, some have proven not so lucky, and their calm exteriors have sometimes given way to shocking insanity. From blush-making malapropisms to startling breakdowns, these are the craziest things that newscasters have said or done on the air.
20. “F**k it, I quit”
KTVA reporter Charlo Greene had a pretty awkward moment in 2014. In fact, during a segment on drugs she found herself in the bizarre position of reporting on a medical marijuana company that she actually owned. And after outing herself as its CEO, Greene went one step further – by announcing her resignation on air with the succinctly worded, “F**k it, I quit.”
19. No more Kardashians
The Kardashians may be America’s most talked-about family, but that doesn’t mean they’re universally loved. Indeed, a 2015 “non-story” about Kylie Jenner’s pet rabbit so incensed anchor John Brown that he stormed off the set of Fox’s Good Morning Orlando. Later, though, he clarified that his problem was with the Kardashians’ media coverage, not with the family itself.
18. Bad intel
When Asiana Flight 214 crashed in 2013, Bay Area-based Fox affiliate KTVU thought that it had received credible info on the pilots’ names. However, the network didn’t notice that the leak was an obvious hoax, leading anchor Tori Campbell to announce several fake and somewhat racist monikers. And as a result of the gaffe, three producers were fired from the station.
17. “I’m not Laurence Fishburne!”
When interviewing celebrities, most anchors usually do some research beforehand. In 2014, however, KTLA host Sam Rubin seemingly skipped this step when he quizzed Samuel L. Jackson about a commercial actually featuring fellow African-American actor Laurence Fishburne. “I’m not Laurence Fishburne!” yelled the furious star in response. “We don’t all look alike.”
16. So that’s how you get to Sigmund Freud’s house…
During a 2013 report on construction work in Saginaw, Michigan, WJRT-TV reporter Siobhan Riley attempted to outline the affected area via a touch-screen map. As pointed out by viewers, however, her efforts accidentally resembled a certain part of the male anatomy. Still, according to network news director Jayne Hodak, the incident was an “honest mistake.”
15. Block party
Slips of the tongue are common in newscasting, but few are as hilarious as Fox anchor Shepherd Smith’s unfortunate mistake from 2002. While reporting on singer Jennifer Lopez, the reporter accidentally said “b*** job” instead of “block party.” And, for his part, he was still willing to bring up the infamous gaffe years later. “I said b*** job once,” he told Men’s Journal in 2009. “What can you do?”
14. No head for heights
Although daring on-screen stunts can liven up the average news report, they may do so at the cost of a newscaster’s safety. Indeed, Melbourne weatherman Grant Denyer actually passed out on air after a 2013 segment in a plane exposed him to excessive G-force. “I’m very glad I didn’t throw up,” he later admitted to Australian newspaper The Sunday Times.
13. Famous last words
Starting a new job is an undeniably nerve-wracking experience, but former KFYR anchor A.J. Clemente’s anxiety cost him a career in 2013. That’s because, before learning he was on air for the first time ever, the journalist muttered “F**king s**t” under his breath. And, of course, his profanity made it into the transmission – and he was fired as a consequence.
12. Grape lady
Some on-air gaffes have actually given their reporters some measure of internet stardom; take Melissa Sander, for example. Sander gained infamy after footage of her falling in a WAGA-TV report on grape-stomping began to circulate online. And the reporter’s ungodly yells of pain not only made the clip a viral hit, but also earned Sander an apt new nickname: “Grape Lady.”
11. Chicken love
While congratulating meteorologist Nick Gregory on a report in 2009, WNYW’s Ernie Anastos had some alarming words for his fellow anchor. “It takes a tough man to make a tender forecast,” he said, before following it with the startling phrase, “Keep f**king that chicken.” Rather amazingly, Anastos wasn’t fired for his outburst.
10. Only a poultry matter
Speaking of chickens, reporter Steven Jacobs fell foul of a rooster during a 2015 segment for Australia’s Today program. Specifically, after the bird he was holding flapped its wings, the terrified journalist promptly turned tail and ran away screaming. “How can I do something serious now?” laughed anchor Karl Stefanovic from the studio.
9. The O’Reilly Factor
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has become infamous for his shocking mid-air outbursts, yet his shaming of protestor Jeremy Glick really takes the cake. During their 2006 meeting, O’Reilly constantly belittled Glick’s opposition to the Afghanistan war – even going so far as to bring up the death of Glick’s father on 9/11. Not cool, Bill.
8. Drunk and disorderly
Turning up to work drunk is a fireable offence in any profession – broadcasting, especially. And so when Edna Schmidt appeared intoxicated for a 2013 edition of Noticiero Telemundo Chicago, she was understandably given the boot. Nonetheless, the former anchor later filed a lawsuit against station WSNS, claiming in the process that her bosses had turned a blind eye to her alcoholism.
7. No laughing matter
There’s a time and a place for laughter, but while reporting on serious world events isn’t one of them. And yet when announcing a building collapse in Mumbai in 2013, Channel Ten’s Natasha Exelby unexpectedly – and inappropriately – came down with the giggles. Needless to say, the Australian anchor apologized profusely following her report.
6. Padding out some dead air
The motto “adapt, adopt and improve” can save the neck of any TV journalist. Indeed, when BBC reporter Simon McCoy mistakenly swapped his iPad for a wad of printing paper in 2013, the anchor carried on reporting like nothing was wrong. Talk about perseverance in the face of embarrassment.
During a 2013 story on a Minnesota Vikings game, KARE 11 newscaster Lee Valsvik got a little too hands-on with her reporting. In what was supposed to be a lighthearted coda to the report, the journalist crashed into a table after being tackled by her cameraman. Thankfully, however, Valsvik escaped without any serious injuries.
4. Fifty Shades of Grey
Without doubt, few things are as capable of killing a newscaster’s composure as innuendo. For example, following a 2008 segment on corporal punishment, WTVT anchor Russell Rhodes asked his co-host Anne Dwyer whether she’d been spanked as a kid. “As a kid?” she mused. “No.” And naturally her suggestive phrasing left the studio floor in hysterics.
3. Blind to his sexuality
When mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer climbed Mount Everest in 2001, he became the very first blind person to achieve this momentous feat. However, it was an achievement somewhat lost on KOAT anchor Cynthia Izaguirre, who bizarrely announced, “He’s gay” during her report. And although she quickly corrected herself, the unfortunate blooper still haunts Izaguirre to this day.
2. Space invader
Attention-seeking bystanders can annoy even the most professional reporters, and KTNV-TV’s Steve Ryan had definitely had enough of one during a 2009 report from Las Vegas. After a drunken fan continually interrupted his segment, in fact, Ryan snapped and slapped his heckler in the face. His violent outburst prompted both sympathetic and critical reactions from fellow journalists.
1. Christine Chubbuck
While it’s easy to laugh off many of the previous entries, the tragic death of Christine Chubbuck remains one of journalism’s darkest moments. Depressed and exasperated at station WXLT-TV’s thirst for sensationalism, the anchor shot herself in the head in the middle of a 1974 live broadcast. Her suicide was later dramatized in the 2016 biopic Christine.