Celebrities who dare to brave live television — whether it’s hosting a talk show or giving an interview — are big risk-takers. That’s because you never know how a segment might go down, even if you’re a seasoned industry vet. Although we won’t name any names just yet, there’s a certain news anchor who knows this sentiment all too well, having damaged their credibility after being caught in an on-air lie. Oops.
Then there are the stars who have something called foot-in-mouth syndrome, making them awful candidates for live TV. One network learned this the hard way when their new hire — a fiery TV journalist — bungled a live segment on a very sensitive topic and incited widespread backlash. And how could we forget all of those disastrous performances on live TV? Surprisingly, many famous artists have torched their impressive resumes after encountering some « technical difficulties » while on stage. (In case you don’t already know, this is essentially equivalent to the « dog ate my homework » excuse.)
Of course, we’re not here to judge. But we are most definitely prepared to give you all the cringeworthy details on celebs who destroyed their careers on live TV this past decade.
Kate Gosselin’s on-air standoff with her twins
It’s no secret former Kate Plus 8 star Kate Gosselin is used to criticism, having received continuous backlash for her parenting when she starred on TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8. But public outcry against her reached a fever pitch in January 2014, following a disastrous interview on Today with her now-adult twin daughters, Mady and Cara Gosselin. Kate was there to defend putting her kids on TV, an argument that didn’t go in her favor when the twins refused to answer Savannah Guthrie’s questions about how they were doing in the spotlight. Kate, who appeared visibly frustrated, snapped at one point, « Mady, your words. It’s your chance, spit it out. »
As for Guthrie’s reaction to the cringefest? She told Bravo exec Andy Cohen on an episode of Watch What Happens Live that she « felt bad » for the twins (via New York Daily News). « In the galaxy of appearing unlikeable, has Kate Gosselin appeared more unlikeable? » Cohen joked, to which Guthrie responded, « Is this the ‘I plead the 5th’ segment? » Eek.
Not only did the Today mess make national news, but it didn’t help Gosselin’s « Mommie Dearest » image one bit. « This is gross, » one person tweeted at the time. « That broad is something else! » Kate Gosselin’s life today seems to be a consequence of this interview, as Kate Plus 8 ended in 2017 and her spin-off show, Kate Plus Date, doesn’t seem like it’s headed toward long-term success.
Megyn Kelly lost it all after defending blackface
Fox News alum Megyn Kelly is no stranger to controversy, but she incited major backlash following an October 2018 segment on the now-defunct Megyn Kelly TODAY. The drama went down when Kelly and her guest panelists — Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager, NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff, and television host Melissa Rivers — entered into a discussion about offensive Halloween costumes.
« But what is racist? » Kelly asked. « You truly do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on white face. » The Illinois native then argued blackface was « okay » when she was a kid « as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character. » Um. Kelly went on to bring up The Real Housewives of New York City star Luann de Lesseps’ 2017 Halloween costume, when she supposedly darkened her complexion to look like Diana Ross. « She wanted to look like Diana Ross for one day, » Kelly continued. « I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween. » When she received push back from the panelists, Kelly quipped, « I can’t keep up with the number of people that we’re offending just by being normal people. »
Amid widespread outrage and following an on-air apology from Kelly, NBC officially canceled Megyn Kelly TODAY days later. Kelly hasn’t landed a big job since then, telling Fox News‘ Tucker Carlson in October 2019 that she’s focused on « day-to-day life » with her « family and friends. »
MØ’s SNL performance was awkward city
Imagine you’re a lesser-known artist who hits it big after collaborating with a bonafide pop star. This was the case for Danish singer MØ, who found major success in America when she lent her vocals to Iggy Azalea’s 2014 smash, « Beg For It. » But MØ’s rocket ship to fame came careening back down to Earth following a disastrous performance on Saturday Night Live in October 2014. Although Azalea handled the appearance like a pro, the upcoming artist appeared nervous and was accused of singing off-beat. The criticism was so intense, MØ felt compelled to speak out, blaming « technical issues » in a handwritten note shared on Twitter. « It sucks to be an anti-hero, » she lamented.
Sadly, MØ’s bungled debut hasn’t helped her career blossom commercially. Although she has since paired up with other major artists like Major Lazer and released a second album in 2018 to generally favorable reviews, her star power hasn’t necessarily bounced back. « Remember when Iggy had MØ shipped back to Denmark in a wooden crate after she messed up their SNL performance, » someone joked on Twitter in 2015. Ouch.
Journalist Brian Williams was caught in a lie
Brian Williams was once one of the most trusted news anchors in America. But that all changed following a February 2015 segment for NBC Nightly News, during which the journalist gave a tribute to Sgt. Major Tim Terpak, who served in the Iraq War. Williams, who attended a hockey game with Terpak days before, told viewers about a « terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq, when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG. Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded, and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry. »
The problem? Williams’ repeated account of these harrowing events never happened. Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who rode with Williams in 2003, denied the claims to Stars and Stripes, explaining how the chopper was never under fire. Although three helicopters flying ahead of Williams were under attack, their chopper landed due to an impending sand storm. Meanwhile, flight engineer Lance Reynolds lamented: « It felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to participate in and didn’t deserve to participate in. »
Williams apologized to NBC Nightly News viewers and the military publication, but it was too late. Journalist Lester Holt took over Williams’ anchor position, while he was demoted to anchoring MSNBC News. The reporter took a « substantial » pay cut, according to The New York Times, and his credibility was forever damaged.
Paula Deen couldn’t take the heat
Like a dollop of creamy tarragon butter sauce seeping into every blackened crevice of a New York strip steak, Paula Deen melted her career down when news broke of a lawsuit accusing her of cultivating an environment of « violent, sexist, and racist behavior » in her restaurants, according to Savannah Now.
The lawsuit, filed by a former employee, accused Deen not only of tolerating racism at restaurants she owned but of exhibiting racist behaviors herself, having allegedly expressed a desire to hold a « Southern plantation-style wedding » with an exclusively black waitstaff, according to a deposition reviewed by The Daily Beast. The Southern-fried chef also admitted that she had « of course » used racial slurs for black people during her lifetime, according to CNN.
Instead of using the experience to apologize and grow, Deen leaned into the skid, going on the defensive by playing the victim card in a highly-panned interview on the Today show. While speaking with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Deen deflected criticism, seemingly expressing shock that people were offended by what she’d said. Lauer raised the notion that perhaps she was only doing the interview « to stop the financial bleeding. »
Speaking of financial bleeding, two Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen restaurants closed in November 2019, according to ABC News. Yep, it’s clear Deen never fully recovered from the hit to her reputation.
Mariah Carey dropped the ball
Okay, we know — nothing short of the End of Days could really end the career of Mariah Carey, a Teflon diva who appears to regard all criticism as nothing more significant than a mote of dust on the shoulder of a Gucci bomber jacket. But Queen Mimi hasn’t done herself a lot of favors, making the sorts of unforced errors and career left-turns that would surely topple the career of, well, anyone but Carey.
The singer had a high-profile live mishap in 2016 when she closed out the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show in Times Square with a cringe-inducing, non-starter of a performance. After hours of buildup for her headlining show, Carey took the stage as her music began playing with a smirk and a shrug and announced, « Happy New Year—we can’t hear. »
As the music played and her dancers twirled around her, Carey pitched the song to the audience, walking the stage and running out the clock, unable to hear and unwilling to sing. « I’m trying to be a good sport, here, » she said as the song wrapped, before moving on to another song that was largely lip-synced.Carey’s team and the show’s production staff would later blame each other for the audio mishap, as outlined by The New York Times. But all of the headlines focused on Carey and her rough performance.
Carey’s response? A succinct « s**t happens » and a GIF of herself shrugging. Now that’s how you deal with the media, kids.
Jamie Kennedy rang in the end of his career
There should be no reason to remember the New Year’s Eve broadcast that aired on Los Angeles-based KDOC-TV during the final moments of 2012. As a local station’s live show, its mission was to idle on the airwaves while most people were out partying. It should have come and gone with barely any notice, and yet, people keep coming back to this viral broadcast because it’s so off-the-rails.
It’s hard to describe the migraine headache that is « First Night 2013. » Simply put, it’s a procession of paid professionals falling on their faces is a ringing example of the dangers of live television. Many scenes find the host, Jamie Kennedy, looking lost on stage, not knowing when the show is live or when the camera is on him.
On the technical side, the show was full of dead air, with the control room training cameras on people who aren’t ready and switching away from people who are trying to mug for the screen, sometimes in a hard cut to commercial, as the Los Angeles Times noted. Whoever was in charge of bleeping profanity missed their marks consistently, and the show concluded by screwing up the countdown clock, officially ringing in the New Year later than everyone else — at which point a fistfight broke out onstage. It’s a solid gold classic of live TV failure and must be seen to be believed.
Karmin fizzled on SNL
As electric as the stage of Saturday Night Live can be in the hands of a seasoned performer, Studio 8H has proven to be a brutal testing ground for new artists. For proof, look no further than the one-two punch of Lana Del Rey and Karmin performing on the show in quick succession in 2012.
At the time of their SNL performances, both artists were up-and-comers, with Del Rey in the process of launching her first major album, and Karmin (comprised of vocalist Amy Heidemann and multi-instrumentalist Nick Noonan) coming off of a successful string of viral song covers on YouTube. After their performances, both were throttled in the media for bombing as musical guests, but their careers proceeded in very different ways. Del Rey honed her persona and stage presence and found continued success, while Karmin soldiered on down a road to nowhere.
The difference? While Del Rey was knocked for looking lost on stage, the members of Karmin faced criticism for their entire act, with a kinder AV Club review allowing that their performance resulted in « mild auditory distress. » UPROXX‘s Pop Culture Editor Josh Kurp knocked the duo as being derivative, combining a buffet of pop signifiers into a mushy conglomeration that failed to connect with audiences, despite a musical theater level of enthusiasm.
Karmin fell apart around 2017 in favor of Heidemann’s alter ego, an R&B/hip-hop experiment called Qveen Herby. Hmm.