Many of our favorite talk shows have endured some pretty intense scandals over the years — from battles between co-hosts to affair accusations, allegations of racism and more. In May 2021, things were getting so tense (and personal) on "The View," for example, that an ABC exec reportedly had to step in. TMZ reported that the president of ABC News held an emergency meeting with "The View" talent and producers to demand that co-hosts Meghan McCain and Joy Behar tone down their increasingly heated verbal sparring. (Around the time, Meghan also made headlines when she snapped at Whoopi Goldberg when the comedian — who serves as the panel's moderator — said they had to cut to a commercial break. "Why are you cutting me off?!" an incensed Meghan yelled.) ABC allegedly had been flooded with calls to fire the show's lone conservative talking head, and the head of ABC indicated that the constant bickering between Meghan and Joy was coming off as "toxic." (The difference of opinion between the two women has been well-chronicled since Meghan joined the show in 2017.) Apparently Meghan didn't take too kindly to the meeting: She reportedly stormed out before it ended because she felt she was being "attacked." Just weeks later, she officially resigned from the panel, attributing her decision to her desire to raise her new daughter in the Washington, D.C., area rather than in New York City, where "The View" films.
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On March 14, 2021, "The Talk" announced that it was going on a brief hiatus while CBS reviewed a heated exchange between Sharon Osbourne and fellow co-host Sheryl Underwood. Just a few days earlier, the women got into an on-air altercation after Sharon defended Piers Morgan's controversial comments about Duchess Meghan. (He questioned the validity of her mental health struggles and her allegations of racism within the royal family.) Sharon demanded that Sheryl "educate" her on racism and later said that she'd been accused of being racist for backing Piers. After the exchange, Sharon apologized on Twitter. Piers later alleged that "The Talk" producers pressured Sharon to apologize. He then demanded an apology from "The Talk." A few weeks later, CBS said Sharon "has decided to leave 'The Talk.'"
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CBS's "The Talk" clearly 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."
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A scandal rocked morning TV in 2017 when multiple women accused "Today" host Matt Lauer of sexual misconduct. NBC fired him on Nov. 29, 2017, after confirming one staffer's story. (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.
Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan had a pretty dramatic split in 2016 when the former football star 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."
2020 wasn't 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 the superstar and debunking her image as one of the nicest celebs in Hollywood. 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 received 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 — in spite of the star's "be kind" mantra. Ellen finally spoke out publicly about the controversy and allegations against her 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." In May 2021, Ellen announced she's stepping down once her contract ends in 2022. Kelly Clarkson will take over the time slot.
Awkward! One of the most uncomfortable shake-ups on late-night television went down 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 went on to host his own show on TBS — only had seven months in the "Tonight Show" chair before Jay reclaimed his spot. Jay retired for good in 2014, paving the way for Jimmy Fallon to take over the coveted gig. Conan, meanwhile, retired from late-night TV in June 2021.
Jimmy Fallon made headlines in May 2020 when an old "Saturday Night Live" sketch from the year 2000 — in which he donned blackface while impersonating Chris Rock — resurfaced on Twitter. Amid the controversy, the "Tonight Show" host took a week-long break from his late-night time slot. He returned with an apology: "In 2000, while on 'SNL,' I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface," he 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 calls to cancel Jimmy — #jimmyfallonisoverparty even trended on Twitter — but Chris actually came to Jimmy's defense. "Hey, man, I'm friends with Jimmy. Jimmy's a great guy. And he didn't mean anything," the "Fargo" actor 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: Her bumpy tenure lasted a little more than a year and 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" — also lagged in the ratings department. The beginning of the end for Megyn came on Oct. 23, 2018, when she said 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 they didn't hide their feelings. The following day, as the backlash to her comments grew, Megyn issued a mea culpa: "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." But her apology wasn't enough. Days later, multiple media outlets reported that NBC gave Megyn the boot. 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 contract with NBC.) Adding to the drama, Megyn parted ways with her longtime talent agency, CAA, around the same time.
Behind-the-scenes drama on "The View" dates all the way back to its inception. One of the talk show's original hosts, Star Jones, suddenly fell out with co-host and series creator Barbara Walters in 2006 — nearly a decade after "The View" launched in 1997 — when ABC told her (through her agent rather than in person) that her popularity "had dropped" and that they wouldn't be renewing her contract. "I feel like I was fired," she told People magazine at the time. Barbara planned to reveal on-air that Star would be leaving the show on good terms, but instead, the attorney beat her to the punch, making the announcement two days earlier than planned. Barbara later told People magazine she felt "betrayed" and blindsided by the move. A few years later, Star's inexperience on the talk show inspired her book "Satan's Sisters" (tell us how you really feel!) — which in turn inspired a short-lived satirical VH1 series called "Daytime Divas." But that wasn't the end of the drama. In 2019, writer Ramin Setoodeh — who interviewed Star for his book "Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View" — alleged that things really soured between Star and Barbara when Star began to suspect that Barbara leaked her 2007 gastric bypass surgery to the press.
In June 2012, Ann Curry's tearful exit from the "Today" show caused major waves and spurred several nasty rumors about the nature of her departure. Brian Stelter's book "Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV" eventually substantiated many of the whispers about what went down. The tell-all alleges that members of the "Today" show 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."
In November 2013, MSNBC canceled Alec Baldwin's late-night talk show, "Up Late with Alec Baldwin," after just five episodes when the Emmy-winning actor made headlines for allegedly using a homophobic 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.
Megyn Kelly irked Jane Fonda when she asked the actress-activist about her plastic surgery and aging during an appearance on a September 2017 episode of "Megyn Kelly Today." The Oscar winner — who was visibly annoyed by the question — clapped back, "We really want to talk about that now?" She then pivoted to discussing the film she was there to promote: "Our Souls at Night." The awkward interaction made headlines for days. After Jane made a joke about it on the "Today" show a few months later, Megyn accused her of being "fixated" on the exchange. Megyn also derided what she described as Jane's "'poor me' routine" and denounced the actress for more than three minutes, insinuating that her anti-Vietnam War protests were unpatriotic. "By the way, [Jane] still says she's 'not proud' of America," Megyn said. "So the moral indignation is a little much." Many thought Megyn's rant was a little much too.
When Natalie Morales left the "Today" show to host "Access Hollywood" in 2016, her abrupt departure sparked questions about the nature of her relationship with Matt Lauer. (Both were married at the time.) According to Page Six, there was speculation she left because "Matt didn't want to work with her" after things took a turn in their relationship. It wasn't the first time the friendly colleagues — who released statements denying the claims — were linked. In 2006, there were rumors that Matt's then-wife, Annette Roque, filed for divorce when she discovered he and Natalie had an affair while covering the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. (Annette ultimately withdrew her petition for divorce.)
Steve Harvey made headlines 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 his friendly on-air persona: 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. … Do not approach me while I'm in the makeup chair unless I ask to speak with you directly. … Do not attempt to walk with me [in the hallway]." After the memo went viral, Steve wisely opted to bail on a wrap party for his show.
Billy Bush didn't last long on the "Today" show. In 2016 — just a few months after he transferred over from "Access Hollywood" — hot mic audio from a 2005 interview he conducted with Donald Trump leaked: Billy could be heard laughing agreeably as the "Apprentice" star made lewd comments about soap star Arianne Zucker and bragged about kissing and groping women. The "Today" show swiftly gave Billy the boot … while Trump went on to become president. "Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed," Billy said in a statement after the tape went viral. "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 a 2004 appearance on CNN's "Crossfire" with Tucker Carlson, Jon Stewart accused the show of "hurting America" and called Tucker and co-host Paul Begala "partisan hacks." Said 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 "The Daily Show," which Jon hosted at the time, the actor 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.
In 2009, David Letterman fessed up to having affairs with multiple colleague during his time as the host of "Late Show With David Letterman." The confession came after a television producer with knowledge of one of the affairs attempted to extort the comedian for $2 million. David beat him to the punch by sharing the news himself. "I'm terribly sorry," he said while coming clean on his late-night show. He added that wife Regina Lasko — whom he'd married earlier that year after more than a decade of coupledom — had "been horribly hurt by my behavior."
Stephen Colbert bombed while serving as the featured entertainer during the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner. His critical monologue focused on then-president George W. Bush — during which he channeled his conservative "The Colbert Report" alter ego — just didn't land with the dinner's attendees. A video of the monologue, however, went viral, ultimately contributing to a boom in ratings for his show.
In July 2020, ViacomCBS fired Nick Cannon 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…"
In May 2007, "The View" panelists Rosie O'Donnell — who'd just joined the cast that year — and Elisabeth Hasselbeck — who was into her fifth season at the time — butted heads over a sensitive and timely issue: the war in Iraq. The extremely heated debate played out unedited on live television. The end result of the uncomfortable and intense verbal altercation? ABC announced that contract negotiations with Rosie fell through and that she would not return for a second season of "The View." (She did eventually return in July 2014 — only to leave again in February 2016, calling the move a "personal decision.") More than a decade later, the two women made headlines again when Rosie admitted she once had a crush on Elisabeth and the conservative talking head called the revelation "disturbing."
Oprah Winfrey landed in hot water when she featured James Frey's alleged memoir "A Million Little Pieces" in her wildly successful book club. It was soon brought to her attention that the author fabricated major portions of the "memoir." So the media mogul invited the writer to appear on an early 2006 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" … during which she went after him hard over his lies. The press dubbed James "the man who conned Oprah" — and her anger was evident during her interview with him. (She later apologized to the author for the intense line of questioning.)
Former "Access Hollywood" and "The Insider" host Pat O'Brien made headlines in 2005 when he left a string of offensive, expletive-filled voicemails for a woman he'd just met. The graphic nature of his messages — which the woman shared with the press — shocked longtime viewers as they contradicted his then-squeaky-clean image. He promptly checked into rehab for alcoholism. Pat later told Oprah Winfrey that he didn't even remember the calls. "One of the byproducts of alcoholism are blackouts," he said. "I don't remember it." But 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 his fellow late-night hosts. His drama with David Letterman stems back to the early '90s when Jay was chosen over Dave to replace Johnny Carson as the host of "The Tonight Show." 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 — lasted for decades. Following Jay's drama with Conan O'Brien in 2009 and 2010, Dave even remarked that there are "two kinds of talk show hosts: Jay Leno, and those who have been victimized by Jay Leno."
Jimmy Kimmel enraged Chinese people around the globe when he made an insensitive joke about China on a 2013 episode of his eponymous late-night show. During a controversial "Jimmy Kimmel Live" segment, the comedian responded "that's an interesting idea" after a child suggested "killing everyone in China" as a solution to dealing with America's growing debt. The statement enraged Chinese American groups, which demanded an apology. Jimmy ultimately obliged: "I thought it was obvious that I didn't agree with that statement, but apparently it wasn't," he said. "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 even bad blood between talk shows! During a late 2013 appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show," "The Talk" co-host Sharon Osbourne made some not-so-friendly remarks about rival female-driven daytime show "The View." She noted that although she loved Barbara Walters, the rest of the women who host "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 often butted heads with her fellow panelists — namely Rosie O'Donnell — while representing the conservative stance. In 2013, rumors started swirling that ABC was gearing up to fire Elisabeth. The buzz got so bad, Barbara Walters was forced to shut it down, explaining on air that the conservative talking head was not being fired over her political views but rather decided to leave the show of her own volition. 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 created the show, which debuted in 1997, but handed over the reins in 2014 after 17 seasons on the air. Ever since, there've been whispers that she's not exactly thrilled with how things turned out. Page Six once reported that Barbara felt executives ruined the series by casting "uninformed child actors on the show" (see: "Full House" star Candace Cameron Bure and former "The Cosby Show" actress Raven-Symoné) instead of "smart, educated women with strong talent." 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.
James Corden made headlines in mid-2021 when a viral petition accused him of spurring anti-Asian racism with the "Spill Your Guts" segment on "The Late Late Show." Here's the premise: If a guest on the comedian's talk show doesn't want to answer a difficult question, he or she can sample a unique food dish instead. James has called the menu items — many of which are mainstays in different Asian cultures — "really disgusting" and "horrific." Explained the petition starter, "In the wake of the constant Asian hate crimes that have continuously been occurring, not only is this segment incredibly culturally offensive and insensitive, but it also encourages anti-Asian racism. … So many Asian Americans are consistently bullied and mocked for their native foods, and this segment amplifies and encourages it." James later admitted that he and his colleagues "completely understand" the criticism. He also promised to make changes: "It's not for us to determine whether somebody's upset or hurt about something. … All we can do is go, 'All right, we get it. We won't do that,'" he told Howard Stern. "Our show is a show about joy and light and love. We don't want to make a show to upset anybody."