Some of our favorite talk shows have endured some pretty intense scandals over the years, from battles between co-hosts to affair accusations and more. Three years ago, a scandal rocked morning TV when "Today" host Matt Lauer was accused of sexual misconduct. NBC fired him on Nov. 29, 2017, after confirming one staffer's story and other women's troubling tales soon surfaced. The disgraced — and then-married — veteran host followed up his quick dismissal with a statement in which he apologized but denied the accuracy of some of the detailed allegations. "There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry," he said. "As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC. Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly." He was replaced by colleague Hoda Kotb. Join Wonderwall.com as we round up more of the most dramatic talk show host controversies to date…
Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan had a pretty dramatic split in 2016 once Michael announced he'd be leaving their morning program, "Live! With Kelly and Michael," for a lucrative new gig on "Good Morning America" — and only told Kelly minutes before the rest of the world even though they'd been co-hosting "Live!" together since 2012. (According to some reports, Michael and Kelly were anything but amicable behind-the-scenes long before he left.) Michael, who announced his big move to "GMA" in April that year, intended to remain with "Live!" through the summer — instead, he left in May amid mounting tensions. Kelly, who took some unscheduled time away from her show in the wake of Michael's new-job news, told People magazine a few weeks later that she felt blindsided by how everything went down. "I think that all people are deserving of fair treatment in the workplace. People deserve respect," she said. "People should be treated equally and with dignity."
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2020 hasn't been the best year for Ellen DeGeneres. In March 2020, comedian and podcast producer Kevin T. Porter, in an effort to raise money for a local food bank, took to Twitter to encourage people to share stories exposing Ellen and debunking her famous mantra "Be kind to one another." Kevin tweeted, "Respond to this with the most insane stories you've heard about Ellen being mean & I'll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank." He ended up receiving more than 2,000 responses. Then over the summer, former employees of the comedian's talk show anonymously alleged that the show fostered a culture of meanness and discrimination that saw many subjected to racist remarks, microaggressions and sexual misconduct. Ellen finally spoke out publicly about the controversy and claims in September. "As you may have heard this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation," she told her audience while kicking off a new season. "I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I'm so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I'm in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show."
Awkward! One of the most uncomfortable shake-ups on late-night television happened in 2009 when Conan O'Brien replaced a retiring Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show." After a few months, Jay decided he wanted his old job back — and NBC actually gave it to him! Ultimately, Conan — who now has his own show on TBS — only had seven months in the "Tonight Show" chair before Jay reclaimed his spot.
In May 2020, Jimmy Fallon was the subject of scrutiny after a "Saturday Night Live" sketch from two decades ago resurfaced and showed him impersonating comedian Chris Rock while wearing blackface. As a result, the host of "The Tonight Show" took a week-long break from his late-night time slot and returned with an apology. "In 2000, while on 'SNL,' I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface," Jimmy wrote on Twitter. "There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable." The resurfaced sketch spurred the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty to cancel him, while Chris came to Jimmy's defense. "Hey, man, I'm friends with Jimmy. Jimmy's a great guy. And he didn't mean anything," Chris told The New York Times. "A lot of people want to say intention doesn't matter, but it does. And I don't think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn't."
Megyn Kelly had a tumultuous ride at NBC, with her bumpy tenure lasting a little more than a year — and it ended with a scandal. Early on, reports suggested that the former Fox News personality, who'd inked a three-year deal worth a reported $69 million to $75 million, was rubbing her NBC co-workers the wrong way. Her morning show — the third hour of "Today," which was dubbed "Megyn Kelly Today" — was also lagging in the ratings department. The beginning of the end for Megyn came on Oct. 23, 2018, when she was met with backlash after saying on her show that it was fair game to wear "blackface" for Halloween "as long as it's a character." Many of her colleagues disagreed and didn't hide their feelings. The following day, as fervor grew, Megyn issued a mea culpa, saying she was sorry for the comments. "The country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense. I believe this is a time for more understanding, more love, more sensitivity and honor… Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too," she said. "It is not OK for that to be part of any costume. Halloween or otherwise. I've never been a PC kind of person, but I do understand the value of being sensitive to our history. Particularly on race and ethnicity." The apology was not enough and days later, multiple outlets reported that Megyn was out. She immediately started exit negotiations, which did not go smoothly and lasted for more than two months. (Ultimately, Page Six reported, she left with $30 million — the balance left on her NBC contract.) Adding to the drama, around the same time, Megyn parted ways with her longtime talent agency, CAA.
Attorney Star Jones was one of the original hosts of "The View" when the talk show debuted in 1997. The daytime chatfest, which consisted of an all-female panel discussing current events, was often plagued with drama behind the scenes, some of which involved Star. In 2006, the co-host had a falling out with the other women and spilled the beans that she would be leaving the show on-air in advance of the planned announcement Barbara Walters had arranged.
The "Today" show certainly isn't immune to scandal. In June 2012, Ann Curry's tearful exit caused major waves — and many of the nasty rumors were later substantiated in reporter Brian Stelter's book "Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV." In the book, he revealed that many on the "Today" staff mistreated Ann and made her life "torture" for her last few months on the show. Reporter Joe Hagan also confirmed the validity of the rumors, sharing that an NBC staff member told him, "Everybody at NBC, everybody at the 'Today' show, everybody understood that Ann was kicked out of her position because Matt [Lauer] didn't want her there. That's why it was so personal between Ann and Matt."
Alec Baldwin once had a late night talk show? It's a little-known fact, considering it only lasted for five episodes. The MSNBC show "Up Late with Alec Baldwin" was canceled in November 2013 after Alec was accused of using an anti-gay slur while talking to paparazzi. He ended up apologizing later, saying, "Words are important. I understand that, and will choose mine with great care going forward. What I said and did this week, as I was trying to protect my family, was offensive and unacceptable." The apology didn't save his show.
CBS's "The Talk" has had its fair share of drama behind-the-scenes. The show, which started in 2010 and is based on the British daily program "Loose Women," originally featured six co-hosts — Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, Leah Remini and Marissa Jaret Winokur. Leah and Holly were released from the show after just one season in 2011. Leah later took to Twitter to call out Sharon for being instrumental in their firing, writing, "Sharon thought me and Holly were 'ghetto'… we were not funny, awkward, and didn't know ourselves," she tweeted. "She has the power that was given to her." Sharon later tweeted in response, "I had absolutely nothing to do with her departure [from] the show and have no idea why she continues to… spread this false gossip."
In September 2017, host Megyn Kelly asked guest Jane Fonda about her plastic surgery and aging when the actress was a guest on "Megyn Kelly Today." The movie star and political activist was visibly annoyed by the question and clapped back, "We really want to talk about that now?" before going on to talk about her film "Our Souls at Night," which she was there to promote. The awkward interaction made headlines for days. Megyn later accused Jane of being "fixated" on the exchange after the actress made a joke about it on the "Today" show a few months later. Megyn criticized Jane's "'poor me' routine" and denounced the actress for more than three minutes, insinuating that her anti-Vietnam War protests were unpatriotic. She also drew attention to her infamous "Hanoi Jane" moment. "By the way, [Jane] still says she's 'not proud' of America," Megyn added. "So the moral indignation is a little much." Many thought Megyn's rant was a little much too.
In July 2016, Matt Lauer found himself in the news for yet another scandal on the "Today" show set when rumors about a relationship between married Matt and fellow married anchor Natalie Morales circulated in the wake of Natalie leaving "Today" to host "Access Hollywood" in California. Page Six reported, "There's speculation it's one of the reasons why she's moving… Matt didn't want to work with her." Though both Matt and Natalie put out statements denying the claims, it wasn't the first time the two were accused of being too friendly. In 2006 when they were covering the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, there was talk that they were involved, which reportedly was a factor in Matt's then-pregnant wife Annette Roque's decision to file for divorce (though she withdrew her petition a few weeks later).
Steve Harvey faced an unpleasant scandal in 2017 when a memo he sent to the staff of his eponymous talk show surfaced on the internet. The note didn't exactly jive with Steve's on-air persona, as it essentially told staffers to stay away from him. Among the commands Steve wrote in the memo? "Do not come to my dressing room unless invited" and "do not approach me while I'm in the makeup chair unless I ask to speak with you directly." In the wake of that news, Steve wisely opted to bail on his show's wrap party.
Another "Today" show scandal! Billy Bush was rising up in the hosting world, having parlayed his longtime gig on "Access Hollywood" into a great new job on the "Today" show… but he only lasted there for a few months in 2016. That October, hot mic audio from a 2005 "Access Hollywood" segment he'd done with a future President Donald Trump leaked. On the tape, Donald — who was a reality TV star at the time — could be heard making lewd comments about soap opera star Arianne Zucker and bragging about kissing and groping women — and Billy could be heard laughing and seemingly egging on the mogul. The fallout from the old offensive tape resulted in Billy being fired from "Today" just a few months after he'd started there. "Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed," Billy said in a statement. "It's no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I'm very sorry."
During an appearance on CNN's "Crossfire" with Tucker Carlson in 2004, Jon Stewart accused the show of "hurting America" and called Tucker and his co-host Paul Begala "partisan hacks." Added Jon, "You're doing theater when you should be doing debate. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery." When Tucker — who's now a Fox News star — fired back with insults about Jon's "The Daily Show" program, Jon hit back that he does comedy, which is different: "You're on CNN. The show leading into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?" Jon went on to address his controversial comments on "The Daily Show," though he didn't offer up an apology. "Apparently, when you invite someone on a show called 'Crossfire' and you express your opinion, they don't care for that," he said.
David Letterman made a huge — and embarrassing — announcement on "Late Show With David Letterman" back in 2009 when he was forced to fess up to having affairs with co-workers. The confession came after a television producer with knowledge of one of the comedian's relationships tried to extort him for $2 million. David decided to share the news with his audience and delivered an apology during his show, telling viewers, "I'm terribly sorry." He'd also married longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko that same year and said that she had "been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that… you try to fix it."
At the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, talk show host Stephen Colbert was the evening's featured entertainer. However, his critical monologue focused on President George W. Bush did not go over well with the dinner's attendees. While he was pulling inspiration from his conservative character from "The Colbert Report," it unfortunately did not land. The video, however, went viral and resulted in an increase in ratings for his show.
In July 2020, former talk show host Nick Cannon was fired by ViacomCBS over anti-Semitic remarks he made on his "Cannon's Class" podcast. The company said in a statement that Nick, who's long hosted MTV and Nickelodeon shows like "Lip Sync Battle Shorties" and "Wild 'N Out," had "promoted hateful speech and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories." According to Page Six, Nick said he didn't initially apologize because he felt that Black people were "true Hebrews." Nick went on to demand full ownership of "Wild 'N Out" and ViacomCBS released a statement explaining that execs were "deeply troubled that Nick failed to acknowledge or apologize for perpetuating anti-Semitism." The music star and television host eventually issued an apology, telling his "Jewish sisters and brothers" that he was sorry for "the hurtful and divisive words that came out of my mouth… They reinforced the worst stereotypes of a proud and magnificent people and I feel ashamed of the uninformed and naïve place that these words came from…"
Perhaps the biggest scandal to hit the stage of "The View" took place in May 2007 when two co-hosts went head-to-head about a sensitive and timely issue: the war in Iraq. Rosie O'Donnell, who joined the cast that year for season 10, and conservative co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who had at that point been starring on the show for five seasons, engaged in a heated fight that played out unedited on live television. The end result of the uncomfortable and intense feud? ABC announced that contract negotiations fell through with Rosie and that she would not be coming back to "The View." Rosie returned for a second stint on "The View" in July 2014, only to leave in February 2016, calling the move a "personal decision."
In 2006, one particular episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" made major headlines when it focused on some serious controversy. Oprah had featured the book "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey in her wildly successful book club. Then it was brought to her attention that the author had fabricated portions of the successful memoir, so Oprah had him on her show to confront him about his lies. James was referred to as "the man who conned Oprah" in the press, and Oprah's anger was evident on the episode. She put James through a scathing interview and later apologized to the author for the intense questioning.
Pat O'Brien, the former host of "Access Hollywood" and "The Insider," found himself in hot water in 2005 when he became embroiled in a scandal over voicemails. After Pat left a string of offensive, expletive-filled messages for a woman he'd just met, she chose to hand them over to the press. The graphic nature of his comments shocked longtime viewers of his show, and the host checked into rehab for alcoholism shortly after. He later told Oprah Winfrey on her show "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" that he didn't even remember the calls. "One of the byproducts of alcoholism are blackouts," he explained. "I don't remember it." Three years later, Pat was fired from "The Insider" following another scandal! In a leaked email he'd written to co-workers, Pat rudely claimed that footage of colleague Lara Spencer picking out accessories made viewers "want to vomit."
Jay Leno is no stranger to feuding with talk show hosts. In 1992, Jay and competing late night host David Letterman weren't on the best of terms — that marked the year that Jay was selected to replace Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," a position David wanted. Their long-running rivalry — which inspired the non-fiction book "The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night" as well as a 1996 HBO movie based on the book — would go on to last for 20 more years. Following Jay's drama with Conan O'Brien in 2009 and 2010, David even remarked that there are "two kinds of talk show hosts: Jay Leno, and those who have been victimized by Jay Leno."
Though made in jest, late night hosts' jokes aren't immune to inciting controversy. Jimmy Kimmel found himself in hot water with an entire country in 2013 when he made a joke about China. In a segment on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," a child suggested "killing everyone in China" might be a solution to help with America's debt, to which Jimmy responded "that's an interesting idea." The statement enraged Chinese American groups, which started petitions and called for an apology. He later put out a statement saying, "I thought it was obvious that I didn't agree with that statement, but apparently it wasn't. So I just want to say I am sorry. I apologize. It was certainly not my intent to upset anyone. I'm here to turn frowns upside down."
Sometimes there's bad blood between talk shows! "The Talk" co-host Sharon Osbourne voiced her opinion about rival daytime female-driven show "The View" in November 2013 while making an appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show" with her "The Talk" co-hosts. She noted that though she loved Barbara Walters, the rest of the hosts on "The View" could "go f*** themselves." The comment was not well-received, and Sharon eventually issued an apology.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was a controversy magnet from the moment she joined "The View" in 2003. She originally sat alongside Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and, during her 10-year stint, butted heads with subsequent co-hosts — namely Rosie O'Donnell — over various topics, often representing the conservative viewpoint. After years of offering up her opinions, rumors swirled that Elisabeth was going to be fired in 2013, to the point where it needed to be addressed on-air. Barbara Walters put those rumors to rest on an episode, explaining that Elisabeth was not being fired over her political views and suggested that Elisabeth was making plans to leave of her own volition — and the television personality eventually did. In July 2013, Elisabeth exited "The View" to take a job at Fox News.
Even Barbara Walters isn't a fan of "The View" these days! The legendary TV journalist was the mastermind behind the show when it debuted in 1997, but she surrendered the reigns in 2014 after hosting for 17 seasons. Since she's left, there have been rumors that she's not exactly thrilled about how the show turned out. Page Six reported that she felt executives ruined the series after casting "uninformed child actors on the show" instead of "smart, educated women with strong talent," which alluded to the hiring of former "Full House" star Candace Cameron Bure and former "The Cosby Show" actress Raven-Symoné. According to Julie Chen, a former moderator on rival show "The Talk," that's accurate! "I believed every word I read in Page Six. I do think Barbara Walters is probably like, 'This amazing show I created is now just kind of withering away with a revolving door of hosts that people can't keep straight.' I mean, I should know all the names of the hosts and I don't because it changes so often!" Julie told Bravo's Andy Cohen that same year. Scandalous!