Falling from grace can certainly hurt if you’ve built a fortune in the spotlight. Unfortunately, famous people aren’t immune to mistakes and quite honestly, they’re held to a higher standard than most. While most people may be granted a second chance, these well-known people were axed or demoted after making awful comments or being caught behaving badly. In all, their careers were decimated by their actions. From Brian Williams embellishing war stories to Paula Deen confessing to using the N-word, here are a group of stars whose careers went up in flames in a matter of seconds.
As one of America’s most recognizable newsmen, Brian Williams’ fall from grace was hard and fast. In 2015, he was caught embellishing stories about his war reporting. The added details, which turned out to be false, made the stories more dramatic and painted him as more heroic. According to Variety, Williams made up statements about reporting in Iraq in 2003. His inflated stories appeared not only on the Nightly News, but on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman. As it goes, Williams claims he was reporting in a helicopter under fire in Iraq in 2003. The men and women in uniform on that same flight had different versions of events. The inflated stories made many worry if Williams was capable of telling the news without extra bells and whistles.
According to USA Today, Williams was suspended for six months without pay for “misremembering” his reporting. “As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision,” wrote NBC News President Deborah Turness. “Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.”
Williams also apologized, saying, “I’m sorry. I said things that weren’t true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “I am determined to win back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on Nightly News but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor. I will support him 100 percent as he has always supported me.”
Months later, he chalked up the snafu to having an inflated ego. “It had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else,” he told Matt Lauer in a wide-ranging interview according to Variety. “I am sorry for what’s happened here. I am different as a result.”
Following his suspension, Williams was permanently removed from his Nightly News anchor seat and reassigned to cover breaking news on the less popular MSNBC.
Anthony Weiner could have been a political tour de force in New York and perhaps the nation had he kept his horniness in check. He first burst on the scene in the ’90s as he ran for congress in Brooklyn, New York. But his career would spiral beyond control in the spring of 2011. According to People, Weiner was caught in his first sexting scandal after an image of his crotch was inadvertently sent out on Twitter. At the time, he claimed to be hacked but days later confessed to carrying out inappropriate relationships with six women. “I have done things I deeply regret,” he said in a public apology. “I apologize to my wife and our families. I’m deeply ashamed.”
In an attempt for a comeback during the 2013 mayoral race, Weiner once again faced a fresh round of sexting allegations. In July of that year, he confessed to sending sexually explicit photos to a woman online. And those nasty headlines returned once more in 2016. This time, the photos were not only sexual in nature but one featured his young son next to him.
As a result, Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, announced she was leaving their marriage in a statement. “After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband,” Abedin said. “Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy.”
Discussing Oscar fashions landed E! personality Giuliana Rancic in hot water. While filming a 2015 episode of Fashion Police, Rancic commented that a dreadlocked Zendaya Coleman smelled of “patchouli oil and weed,” according to People. Many thought her comments had racists undertones and Coleman herself fired back with a lengthy response calling the remarks “ignorant slurs.”
Rancic issued an apology following the incident saying, “Something I said last night did cross the line,” Rancic said according to Us Weekly. “I didn’t intend to hurt anybody, but I’ve learned it’s not my intent that matters, it’s the result.”
Rancic blamed it all on a misunderstanding due to poor editing. “On set, I made peace signs and I said boho twice. It was edited. And my words were taken out of context. If I thought this joke could be interpreted another way, I never would have done it. I felt horrible.”
In the aftermath, both Kathy Griffin and Kelly Osbourne quit the show, reports People. Rancic also eventually stepped down as host of E! News. She claims “It was 100 percent my decision to leave,” she told the site in an interview. “I brought up the idea to leave three years ago, but E! News kept extending me because they wanted me to stay. This has been three years in the making.” Since then, she’s taken on less roles on the network and has virtually stayed out of the spotlight.