From Matt Lauer to Kelly and Michael: The Biggest TV Talk Show Controversies Ever
There are many talk shows that have the task of entertaining and informing people. But a lot of the time, those things get pushed into the background as the behind-the-scenes drama or even on air gets in the way. Co-hosts feud, anchors say something controversial on and off air, and there are messy firings.
So what are the biggest TV talk show controversies? Some have followed shows for years, while others are forgotten about after they lead to the swift cancellation of shows. Here are the 15 biggest TV talk show controversies ever, leading up to the No. 1 biggest scandal.
15. Debra Messing calls out Megyn Kelly for offensive comment
The Will & Grace star appeared on Megyn Kelly Today but later regretted it because of an offensive joke made on set. Kelly reportedly asked, “Is it true that you became a lawyer — and you became gay — because of Will?” A fan named Russell Turner then answered, “I look at Will Truman and I’m like, ‘He has it made!’ Lawyer, best apartment in New York City, and gay? Come on, trifecta.”
When Debra Messing was asked on Instagram why she went on the talk show by a fan, she wrote, “Honestly I didn’t know it was MK until that morning. The itinerary just said Today show appearance. Regret going on. Dismayed by her comments.”
Next: This host dramatically left this show twice!
14. Rosie O’Donnell’s leave, return, then second leave from The View
Host Rosie O’Donnell has a long rollercoaster of a history with the talk show. When she was first on, she butted heads with co-star Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The two notably got into a heated argument on air when talking about the Iraq war that led to them walking off set. The tension was so thick that O’Donnell was released from her 11-month contract after five months.
She later returned to the show, and there were many headlines speculating there was drama behind the scenes again. O’Donnell left again, not because of a feud but because she was getting a divorce and wanted time to deal with the big change.
Next: This two hosts hated each other so much one pushed the other out.
13. Matt Lauer reportedly helps push Ann Curry out of Today
The co-stars didn’t get along to the point where Lauer wanted Ann Curry out — and he successfully made it happen. The morning show was falling in ratings, and executive producer Jim Bell blamed Curry, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Curry was also reportedly pranked along with other people in the cast by being sent to a fake photo shoot, which led to her being angry at Lauer.
The two reportedly haven’t talked since Curry was fired from the show. Co-host Meredith Vieira wrote about the messy time in her book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV. She wrote, “They basically pointed to one person on whom to take out all of their anger. I don’t know if I would have survived that.”
Next: This trusted show accidentally promoted a book full of lies.
12. Oprah Winfrey promotes falsified memoir, A Million Little Pieces
The mogul’s stamp of approval has made a lot of people’s careers over the years and helped a lot of books become bestsellers. A big reason for that is because she has gained so many people’s trust. So it was a scandal that after promoting James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces, it came to light that the story included many false accounts.
Among the made-up claims were stories of how he served three months in jail and underwent dental surgery without Novocain, according to Today. “I feel duped,” Oprah Winfrey said on her show. “But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers.”
Next: This host blamed a co-host for getting her fired.
11. Leah Remini claims Sharon Osbourne got her fired
The actress used to be a host of The Talk with Sharon Osbourne. When she was fired, she unloaded on Twitter, writing, “Sharon thought me and Holly [Robinson Peete] were ‘ghetto’…we were not funny, awkward and didn’t know ourselves. She has the power that was given to her.”
Osbourne responded to the accusation by tweeting, “In response to Leah Remini’s continuous comments that I had her fired from The Talk, let me just go on the record to say I had absolutely nothing to do with her departure from the show and have no idea why she continues to take to Twitter to spread this false gossip.”
Remini later talked about her fallout with Osbourne to Howard Stern. “I have to take responsibility for the sh*t that I did. I was a pain in the a**, I’m a pain in the a**,” she said.
Next: These two late-night hosts publicly fought over airtime.
10. Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien fight over airtime at NBC
The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien and The Jay Leno Show weren’t doing so hot in ratings, so there was a change-up. When NBC announced that Jay Leno would return to late-night TV at 11:30 p.m. and offered Conan O’Brien to go on 12:05 a.m. it really ignited a fight for airtime. Both late-night hosts had no problem speaking publicly over their unhappiness with the network’s decision.
O’Brien finally made his decision of jumping ship, saying “The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t The Tonight Show.” He instead settled on getting $45 million for himself and his staff to leave the network. He then got his own show Conan on TBS.
Next: This host was accused of being too friendly with a presidential candidate.
9. Jimmy Fallon is in the hot seat for ruffling Donald Trump’s hair
During the 2016 presidential election, many late-night hosts were becoming more outspoken politically. However, Jimmy Fallon was very vocal about not wanting to talk about politics or taking a side. Still, many were upset that when he finally interviewed Donald Trump, he gave softball questions and even ruffled Trump’s hair. This led to a backlash that he didn’t address until much later.
“I didn’t do it to humanize [Trump],” he told The New York Times. “I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.'” He then later added his regret of not addressing the controversy, “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it. I regret that.”
Next: This cast was torn apart over alleged secret surgery.
8. Star Jones and Barbara Walters publicly feud after The View firing
Once again, The View made headlines for a feud. This time, Star Jones was dramatically fired, and the reason why got talked about years later. Walters told Winfrey that she knew about Jones’ gastric bypass surgery before Jones talked about it publicly. She also claimed Jones asked the women of The View to lie about the surgery.
This led to Jones making a statement. “It is a sad day when an icon like Barbara Walters, in the sunset of her life, is reduced to publicly branding herself as an adulterer,” she told Us Magazine. “Humiliating an innocent family with accounts of her illicit affair and speaking negatively against me all for the sake of selling a book. It speaks to her true character.”
Next: This host claimed someone on her show betrayed her.
7. Chelsea Handler claims Heather McDonald sold stories about her
Heather McDonald used to work on Chelsea Lately, but then she had a public falling out with Chelsea Handler. Handler claimed it was because McDonald betrayed her. “When I found out at work that she was trading stories to Us Weekly about my personal life in exchange for having her pictures run in the magazine, I could have fired her,” she told Howard Stern. “She had a job for four more years. I never hung out with her personally again.”
McDonald also criticized Handler for how she handles her relationships with people. “I think she’s a good person, I don’t agree with how she treats relationships in her life,” she said, according to E!. “She makes you feel so special until you’re not.”
Next: This late-night host was blackmailed with a scandal.
6. David Letterman’s sex and blackmail scandal
The Late Show host had an affair with his assistant Stephanie Birkitt, which was already big news. But on top of that, David Letterman had to come forward about the affair because he was being blackmailed in 2009 — reportedly by CBS News producer Robert “Joe” Halderman, who came across Letterman’s diary, according to People.
He gave an apology on his show by saying “I’m terribly sorry,” and said his wife “has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that … you try to fix it … So let me tell you folks: I got my work cut out for me.”
Next: This host’s secret explicit voicemails were released.
5. Pat O’Brien’s voicemails are released
The Access Hollywood host had voicemails that he drunkenly left for a woman released to the public. They were graphic. and the host also said they could “get crazy” together by doing cocaine, according to the Huffington Post. Pat O’Brien later talked about his alcohol addiction.
“One of the byproducts of alcoholism are blackouts,” he explained on Oprah: Where Are They Now? “I don’t remember it.”
Next: Two co-hosts go head-to-head.
4. Kelly Ripa is blindsided by Michael Strahan’s leave from Live with Kelly and Michael
It seemed like Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan were doing pretty well as co-hosts on the morning talk show. So it was pretty surprising to everyone when it was announced that Strahan was leaving the show to be on Good Morning America. That includes Ripa, which led to a public feud.
Ripa was reportedly so upset she was kept out of the loop that she took a leave of absence from the show a few days after the announcement. When Ripa did return to the show, she gave a statement hinting at her feelings of being disrespected by the network. “In a sense that it started a greater conversation about communication, consideration and, most importantly, respect in [the] workplace,” she said.
Strahan has since defended his decision and felt like he was thrown under the bus. “I wasn’t surprised by her reaction at all, but I can’t control somebody else’s actions,” he said, according to E! News. “I was there four years, and it’s about more than just being in front of the camera.”
Next: This host’s comments might have started a feud.
3. Sharon Osbourne says the hosts of The View can go f*ck themselves
The Talk host apparently isn’t a big fan of the women of The View. When she appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, she said, “Stop being polite! Cut to the f*cking chase!” She continued, “The situation is: Barbara — idolize her, divine, she is super-human. I love Barbara Walters. The rest can go f*ck themselves!”
After her comment made news, she apologized. “I was inappropriate and I was trying to be funny at somebody else’s expense,” explained Osbourne. “I’m really just a loose cannon! Anyway, I want to apologize to Jenny [McCarthy], Sherri [Shepherd] and Whoopi [Goldberg] who are all accomplished, self-made women who have amazing careers.”
Next: This show was swiftly canceled over a scandal.
2. Alec Baldwin’s show is canceled after homophobic slur
The Oscar-nominated actor had a short-lived talk show called Up Late With Alec Baldwin. After just four episodes, it was canceled because he went on a homophobic rant at a photographer, which included calling him a “f*ggot”, according to Page Six.
Next: This morning show host was fired for sexual misconduct.
1. Matt Lauer is fired after sexual misconduct allegation
After two decades of being at NBC, Matt Lauer was fired, as announced on Nov. 29, 2017. “On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” wrote Andrew Lack, the NBC News president, in a memo.
Lack continued saying that Lauer “represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment.”
Savannah Guthrie announced the news on Today and said: “All we can say is we are heartbroken; I’m heartbroken.”
Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!