WVU grad loses TV news job on 1st day after slip of tongue

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In the space of 15 seconds Sunday, A.J. Clemente began and ended his broadcast career at KFYR-TV in Bismarck, N.D..

Apparently frustrated while practicing the pronunciation of a name, he didn't realize his microphone was live.

Thus he began "Evening Report" with a two-word combination of expletives unprintable here and certainly a shock to viewers at home.

His co-anchor, Van Tieu, seemed stunned and stumbled through an introduction. Mr. Clemente responded with an awkward hello and later added he was "used to, um, you know, being from the East Coast."

OK then. On to the news.

"That couldn't have gone any worse!" he posted on his Twitter account after the broadcast.

Later, he added "Tough day, Thanks for the support, We all make mistakes. Im truly sorry for mine. I'll try my hardest to come back better and learn from this."

But by noon Monday, Mr. Clemente was out of a job.

"Unfortunately, KFYRTV has decided to let me go. Thank you to them and everyone in ND for the opportunity and everyone for the support," he tweeted.

Mr. Clemente, a graduate of the West Virginia University's School of Journalism, quickly became the subject of a viral video that racked up thousands of views on YouTube and also was posted on news websites from Los Angeles to London.

On the station's Facebook page, news director Monica Hannan posted an apology: "He did not realize his microphone was on, but still, that's no excuse. ... All we can do at this point is ask for your forgiveness and I can offer my personal assurance that I will do my best to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again under my watch."

But far from viewers wanting an apology, many said they would like to have Mr. Clemente rehired.

"I think we're all adults and are quite capable of getting over it. It's a non-issue. ... We can all have a sympathetic chuckle (And feel a little better about our own goofs)" was a post on the station's Facebook page that quickly racked up almost 800 "Likes."

The dozens of tweets to Mr. Clemente included a fair share from those in the broadcast industry.

Robert Flores, an anchor on ESPN's "SportsCenter," posted "Same thing happened to me, and mine wasn't a rookie mistake. If I made it through, you can too."

Mr. Clemente, who tweeted that he was going to be in New York City Tuesday, inspired the April 22 "Top 10" on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman."

"Top 10 signs your first day as a news anchorman did not go well" included infamous clips of two other on-air obscenity bloopers, and No. 8 was typical: "Weatherman tells you to expect an 80 percent chance of unemployment."

NBC's "Today" has promoted an interview with Mr. Clemente, who is scheduled to appear on the April 24 morning broadcast.

The incident only goes to show context counts.

Over the weekend, at an emotional Boston Red Sox pregame ceremony, designated hitter David Ortiz gave a rousing little speech that included one of the same obscenities.

Because the broadcast was on cable, it wasn't subject to FCC fines. But it's notable that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski tweeted his approval, saying Mr. Ortiz "spoke from the heart ... I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston."


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or @MariaSciulloPG.


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