Top 20 Incidents That Got TV Hosts Fired

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Top 20 Incidents That Got TV Hosts Fired

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
For one reason or another, these TV Hosts rubbed their networks the wrong way and ended up paying for it with their jobs. For this list, we'll be looking at controversial incidents that resulted in the terminations of successful personalities. Our countdown includes Nick Cannon, Bill O'Reilly, Pat O'Brian, Megyn Kelly, and more!
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For one reason or another, these TV Hosts rubbed their networks the wrong way and ended up paying for it with their jobs. For this list, we’ll be looking at controversial incidents that resulted in the terminations of successful personalities. Our countdown includes Nick Cannon, Bill O'Reilly, Pat O'Brian, Megyn Kelly, and more! Do you remember any of these moments? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: Jeremy Clarkson


This controversial English presenter has been hosting “Top Gear” since the late ‘80s. However, his tenure with the BBC came to an abrupt end in 2015. While Clarkson was filming in North Yorkshire with producer Oisin Tymon, he was informed that the hotel chef had gone home. This meant a steak he desired wouldn’t be coming. This catering fracas eventually led to Clarkson punching Tymon, who required treatment in a local hospital. Since the BBC suspended Clarkson and refused to renew his contract they effectively fired him from “Top Gun”. Clarkson later settled a lawsuit with Tymon and rebounded to create “The Grand Tour” for Amazon.

#19: Sean Salisbury


Following a successful football career, Grey Cup champion Sean Salisbury began working as an analyst for ESPN. However, he proceeded to leave the channel in 2008 amidst rumors that he harassed someone at work. The story that eventually emerged was that Salisbury had taken a very inappropriate photo of a part of his body and showed it to a coworker. After initially denying these rumors, he fully admitted to what he did in 2010. Salisbury himself said “it [felt] good getting it off [his] chest.” While he disagreed with how much his actions derailed his hosting opportunities, it's unlikely he’ll ever be invited back to host more on ESPN for his inappropriate behavior.

#18: Nick Cannon


In 2005 Nick Cannon began hosting a popular sketch comedy game show called “Wild 'n Out.” But after fifteen successful years on television, he ran into trouble when he made offensive statements that targeted racial and religious groups. “Wild ‘n Out” parent company ViacomCBS quickly tried to distance themselves from Cannon and let him go. The tv personality issued a few apologies and made efforts to get to know those he offended. After working to repair relationships, ViacomCBS brought Cannon back to “Wild 'n Out” six months later. The network seemed to accept the actions the host took to make up for his words.

#17: Mike Richards


Everyone knew that finding a new host for “Jeopardy!” would be tough. However, no one expected the media firestorms that would surround potential hosts like Mike Richards. The game show gave a few big names their chance to prove they could lead “Jeopardy!”. After a while, it was announced that executive producer Mike Richards would take over as full-time host. But his official tenure didn’t last long. During his brief time as host, controversial remarks he’d made about women resurfaced online. Shortly after Richards stepped down as the face of “Jeopardy”, he was eventually fired from his producing role as well.

#16: Gretchen Carlson


Between 2006 and 2013, Carlson presented on the Fox News program “Fox & Friends.” She left the program in September of 2013 to host her own talk show “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.” But the truth was revealed three years later when Carlson filed a lawsuit against her boss, Roger Ailes. According to Carlson, she had been repeatedly subjected to harassment in the workplace. She was ultimately let go from “Fox & Friends” after lodging complaints about her co-host, Steve Doocy and turning down her boss’ advances. Luckily, history has substantiated Carlson’s story, and she has since settled a lawsuit with Fox for $20 million. She is now regarded as a hero and continues to work to help other women in bad workplace situations.

#15: Marc Summers


During his decades on tv, Marc Summers has worked on Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare” , various game shows, and numerous food programs. He was also tapped to host the revival of “Hollywood Squares”. However, he was fired before the show even began. In the mid ‘90s, Summers publicly revealed that he suffered from obsessive–compulsive disorder. According to Summers, rumors quickly swirled throughout Hollywood that his OCD made him “difficult to work with.” Those words were allegedly enough to get Summers fired from “Hollywood Squares” and replaced. Luckily, he would overcome the stigma and find great success producing and hosting shows on the Food Network.

#14: Megyn Kelly


Following her tenure at Fox, Megyn Kelly moved to NBC to host a variety of programs, including a daytime talk show. Everything changed when she had a panel discussion about Halloween costumes that had been considered offensive. The conversation eventually touched upon the use of blackface for costumes. Kelly made comments suggesting that donning offensive makeup can be acceptable for certain costumes. Amidst a firestorm of controversy, she issued a public apology on her show for what she had said. In the wake of the discussion and Kelly’s attempts to repair the damage, the show was swiftly canceled.

#13: Paula Deen


Paula Deen became known as the public face of Southern cooking while publishing numerous cookbooks and hosting a variety of shows. Perhaps her most famous program was “Paula’s Home Cooking,” which debuted back in 2002. It seemed like she’d be a permanent staple on the food shows until June 2013. At that time, former Deen employee Lisa Jackson claimed the host made offensive racial remarks and fostered an uncomfortable workplace environment. The host ended up admitting to using racist language during the civil proceedings. Although Deen didn’t lose the lawsuit, the host couldn’t recover in the court of public opinion. She lost many business deals and was completely dropped from her Food Network show.

#12: Brian Williams


After joining “NBC Nightly News” back in 1993, Brian Williams became arguably one of the most famous news personalities of the last few decades. His stellar reputation was irreparably damaged on the night of January 30, 2015. Williams told a false story about his time in the Iraq War. According to him, he was riding in a helicopter when it came under RPG fire and had to land right away. But various soldiers involved in the event called Williams on his story and said that he was nowhere near the helicopter in question. Williams came under fire (uh, no pun intended) and was suspended for six months. Following the suspension, Williams was fired from “NBC Nightly News”.

#11: Kathy Griffin


One infamous photo made it pretty clear how Kathy Griffin felt about Donald Trump and his policies. On May 30, 2017, Griffin posted a particularly controversial image in which she held a mock and gruesome head that looked like the controversial political figure. The violent nature of the picture crossed a line for many. Following the photo shoot, Griffin’s schedule was wiped clean. Her comedy tour dates were canceled, she was dropped as a business spokesperson, and she was fired from CNN’s New Year’s Eve program. She was also reportedly investigated by the Secret Service. And while Griffin initially apologized for the photo, she went on to retract said apology and re-tweeted the picture during the 2020 election race.

#10: Paul Pierce


This ex-basketball star played nineteen seasons in the NBA, his career spanning 1998 to 2017. Following his retirement, Pierce began working as an analyst for ESPN, but his broadcasting career was spotty and became marred in controversy. Everything came to a head on April 2, 2021, when Pierce streamed a racy video on Instagram Live. The video took place at a poker game and showed a mask-less Pierce smoking and drinking amidst scantily-clad women twerking. It was likely the last straw for ESPN, which is partly owned by The Walt Disney Company. They fired Pierce without comment, ending their tenuous four-year working relationship.

#9: Fred Willard


This late comic actor was primarily known for movies like “This Is Spinal Tap”, “Anchorman”, and “American Wedding”, but he also hosted the PBS reality program “Market Warriors”. This show saw professional antique buyers shopping for items at flea markets and attempting to re-sell them for a profit. However, his tenure as host came to an end in July 2012 when he was arrested at an adult movie theater on Santa Monica Boulevard, on suspicion of lewd conduct. Willard claimed that he did nothing wrong, telling Jimmy Fallon, quote “If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, everything seems suspicious.” To avoid charges, Willard was forced to undertake a sex ed diversion program.

#8: Pat O'Brian


This radio host and TV personality has been working in the field since 1981, covering numerous Olympic Games, sports finals like the World Series and Super Bowls, and hosting the likes of “Access Hollywood” and “The Insider”. However, he was fired from the latter in September 2008. O’Brien was already on thin ice, having previously been demoted and replaced as anchor by Lara Spencer. O’Brien subsequently penned a mass email that he sent to the show’s staff, writing, quote “Watching Anya and Lara pick out accessories makes the viewers want to vomit.” He explicitly wrote “I’ll get killed for this”, and he was right - O’Brien was immediately fired.

#7: Rick Sanchez


Joining CNN in 2004, journalist and anchor Rick Sanchez eventually began hosting the news program “Rick’s List”. But the same year, while appearing on the Sirius XM radio show “Stand Up with Pete Dominick”, Sanchez made highly controversial remarks relating to talk show host Jon Stewart. He called Stewart a quote “bigot” and proceeded to state, ["I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah."] The comments earned Sanchez a termination from CNN.

#6: Phil Donahue


Perhaps the most influential talk show host of all time, Phil Donahue is known for hosting “The Phil Donahue Show”, which ran for 26 years from 1967 to 1996. The program is widely credited for being the first talk show to engage directly with audiences. In 2003, his MSNBC show “Donahue” was cancelled. However, a leaked internal memo suggested that Donahue was fired for his public anti-Iraq War sentiments. It was stated that Donahue would be a quote “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war” and his program quote “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda”. Donahue later suggested that his firing came as a result of General Electric, the defense contractor that owned MSNBC at the time.

#5: Matt Lauer


One of the most popular news anchors of his era, Matt Lauer rose to prominence on NBC’s “The Today Show” before serving as co-host for twenty years. However, his long-term employment with the company came to an end amidst the Me Too movement. In November 2017, Lauer was terminated from NBC after he was accused of misconduct by a company employee while they were working the Winter Olympics in Sochi. This opened a floodgate, with Variety reporting further allegations. Journalist Ronan Farrow later claimed that NBC had long been aware of the accusations made against Lauer and that they had once killed a story exposing Harvey Weinstein after Weinstein threatened to expose Lauer and NBC in retaliation.

#4: Sharon Osbourne


Sharon Osbourne has had a thriving hosting career after vaulting to cultural prominence on “The Osbournes”. However, that certainly hasn’t precluded her from controversy. A March 2021 episode of “The Talk” saw Osbourne and her co-hosts debating Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan Markle. Osbourne supported Morgan and publicly feared that she would be considered racist as a result. CBS conducted an internal investigation, stating that Osbourne’s behavior quote “did not align with our values for a respectful workplace” and that quote “it was clear the co-hosts were not properly prepared by the staff for a complex and sensitive discussion involving race”. “The Talk” subsequently went on hiatus, and Osbourne permanently departed the show.

#3: Bill O'Reilly


This Fox News host has always been a controversial figure, and he publicly settled a harassment lawsuit with former producer Andrea Mackris back in 2004. However, this was only the tip of the iceberg. In 2017, The New York Times reported that O’Reilly and Fox News had settled with five different women regarding assault allegations and potential lawsuits against O’Reilly. When this became public knowledge, nearly sixty advertisers dropped their support for O’Reilly, and he was subsequently dropped from Fox News. Just a few months later, it was reported that O’Reilly had paid Fox News analyst Lis Wiehl $32 million to settle a potential lawsuit. All told, Fox News and O’Reilly had paid out an estimated $45 million in out-of-court settlements.

#2: Rush Limbaugh


The late Rush Limbaugh was considered the most popular radio host in the United States, with his eponymous show being the highest-rated talk show in the country. In the early 2000s, Limbaugh briefly worked as a football commentator for ESPN. However, he garnered controversy for comments he made aimed against then-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Limbaugh claimed [“I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.”] After massive blowback, Limbaugh stated that quote “the great people at ESPN did not want to deal with this kind of reaction” and subsequently resigned from his position.

#1: Billy Bush


The nephew of ex-President George H.W. Bush, Billy Bush served as anchor on “Access Hollywood”, hosted his own talk radio show from 2008 to 2014, and briefly co-hosted NBC’s “Today”. He began his “Today” tenure in May 2016 but was fired the following October after the infamous Donald Trump “Access Hollywood” tape was released. This is the video in which Trump made his controversial remarks while speaking with Bush, including saying, quote “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Bush was suspended from “Today” following the release of the tape, and the resulting controversy. About a week later, the suspension turned permanent, and Bush was let go from NBC.
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