Top 10 Most Controversial Talk Show Scandals
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Emma Schell
These talk show scandals were all anyone could talk about. Our countdown includes "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "The Wendy Williams Show," "Dr. Phil," and more!
Top 10 Talk Show Scandals
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Talk Show Scandals.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most controversial and surprising scandals in talk show history.
Let us know in the comments below which scandal shocked you the most.
#10: Live with Kelly vs. Michael
“Live with Kelly and Ryan” (1983-)
Tensions arose on the set of “Live” - then called “Live with Kelly and Michael” - after host Michael Strahan announced that he would be departing from the show to co-host “Good Morning America” in 2016. This came as a surprise to co-host Kelly Ripa who reportedly found out minutes before the news broke and was so upset that she took a hiatus from her hosting duties - though her publicist claimed this was a vacation that had been planned beforehand. When Ripa returned to the show, it was apparent that she had been blindsided by the announcement as she joked "I'm fairly certain that there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message." Ripa also insisted on-air that she deserved more communication, consideration, and respect, making it clear that she had not received such treatment from Strahan or ABC.
#9: American Debt to China
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (2003-)
Controversy surrounded 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' after offensive comments made by a six-year old aired during the show in 2013. The segment in question featured Kimmel speaking to a group of children about U.S debt, including Jimmy asking the kids how the United States government should pay back money to China. Said 6 year-old boy suggested that the U.S. should commit violent acts on the population of China as repayment. The comment sparked outrage with viewers and led to protests by Chinese-American groups outside of ABC’s headquarters. Following the controversy, Kimmel apologised directly to the protesters, as well as on his show.
#8: Her Comments on HBCUs
“The Wendy Williams Show” (2008-)
Wendy Williams is no stranger to controversy, in which she found herself again after making comments about Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 2016. During a segment on her show called "Hot Topics", Williams discussed a speech made by actor Jesse Williams at the BET awards. While she stated the speech was "poignant", she went on to claim that she would be offended if "there was a school that was known as a historically white college”, while also stating “What if there was the National Organization for White People, only? There's the NAACP." It wasn’t long before the comments sparked outrage online, with some users even calling for a boycott of the show.
#7: Billy Bush Is Fired
While it was recorded over a decade before, Billy Bush's infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape didn't receive media attention until the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The tape, which features entertainment journalist Bush alongside business mogul, and future United States President, Donald Trump, garnered widespread backlash because of comments that Trump made. In the leaked video, Trump can be heard saying vulgar things about women, as well as making very
improper and offensive suggestions that he claimed he could get away with because of his fame. While the video may not have resulted in any harsh consequences for Trump - who went on to win the presidential candidacy - it did result in Billy, who could be heard laughing and joining in with Trump’s derogatory remarks, being dismissed as the co-host of 'Today'.
#6: Charlie Rose Is Fired
“CBS This Morning” (1987-99; 2012-)
2017 saw many men in the entertainment industry being held accountable for their inappropriate behavior, long-time host Charlie Rose included. Rose’s behavior was first brought forward in the media via a Washington Post article that revealed sexual misconduct accusations from 8 women, with 27 more women coming forward with their stories 6 months later. While 2017 was the first time these allegations were made public, according to the Washington Post, Rose’s actions were allegedly brought to the attention of CBS managers multiple times over the course of Charlie’s 33 year career at the network. Charlie was promptly fired from PBS, where he co-hosted “Charlie Rose”, and CBS, where he hosted “CBS This Morning” and was a correspondent for “60 Minutes”.
#5: David Letterman's Affairs
“Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)
In a rare personal moment, beloved host David Letterman took to his show to reveal to his audience that he had multiple extramarital affairs with his female staff members in 2009. While he shied away from going into detail about them, he did discuss that he was being blackmailed and extorted by someone who had claimed they knew about Letterman's bad behavior. The blackmailer, who was revealed to be a CBS producer and an ex-boyfriend of one of the women who had relations with Letterman, asked Dave for $2 million dollars to keep the information a secret. Letterman didn’t cooperate however, instead giving the blackmailer a phony cheque and taking him to court for attempted extortion.
#4: “Ellen” Under Investigation
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (2003-)
Ellen DeGeneres has stirred up a lot of controversy in the late 2010s and early 2020s, from chumming up to former president George W. Bush to her not-so-kind on-set behavior being exposed. But no controversy has been as big as the 2020 investigation into her widely beloved talk show. The investigation was launched after a report done by Buzzfeed News revealed accusations of mistreatment of employees by producers, including claims of racism and bullying by former and current employees. Buzzfeed went on to report more accusations that included alleged sexual misconduct and harassment by executive producers Kevin Leman and Ed Glavin. While the show is now back on the air, the claims led to an internal investigation being conducted and the removal of three of Ellen's top producers.
#3: Allegations Against Matt Lauer
Like Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer was also at the center of a national media frenzy in 2017. That year, multiple employees came forward to NBC with allegations of sexual misconduct by the ‘Today’ host. Following the complaints by the women, The New York Times revealed that Matt Lauer was fired from his hosting position at “Today” after 20 years on the air. The appalling accusations didn’t end there though, as two years after they became public, it was revealed in Ronan Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill” that the first victim to come forward was producer Brooke Nevils, and that she was sexually assaulted by Lauer during the Sochi Olympics.
#2: Todd Herzog vs. Dr. Phil
“Dr. Phil” (2002-)
While Dr. Phil may be known for helping his guests overcome hardship, in 2017 he faced accusations from former guest and “Survivor” winner Todd Herzog that the program’s producers had enabled his drug and alcohol addiction while he was on the show in 2013. Herzog claimed that they had placed him alone in his dressing room with a bottle of vodka, as well as provided him with a Xanax in an effort to dramatize Herzog’s addictions for views. As a result, Herzog was visibly intoxicated and almost incoherent during his appearance. Despite the accusations, similar ones of which have since been made by numerous other guests, the show has maintained that Herzog’s claims are “unequivocally untrue”.
#1: A Crush Gone Wrong
“The Jenny Jones Show” (1991-2003)
During a normally lighthearted segment on ‘The Jenny Jones Show’, guests were encouraged to reveal their deepest secrets on-air. However, things would turn into a nightmare after guest Scott Amedure revealed to his neighbor Jonathan Schmitz that he had a secret crush on him in 1995 . While Schmitz didn't seem too bothered by the revelation during the episode, only three days after the episode taped Schmitz murdered Amedure in his home before turning himself into police. He claimed he killed Scott out of embarrassment. Jonathan was subsequently found guilty of second degree murder and served 22 years in prison, while ‘The Jenny Jones Show’ episode itself never aired, and the program fought its own legal battle with the Amedure family - which it eventually won in 2002.