VOICE OVER: Patrick Mealey
WRITTEN BY: Joe Shetina
These interviews destroyed more than just careers. For this list, we'll be looking at recorded interviews and/or face-to-face discussions that had damaging effects on the lives, reputations, and credibility of the people involved. Our countdown of interviews that ruined people's lives includes Lance Armstrong with Oprah, Billy Bush Interviews Donald Trump, Princess Diana with Martin Bashir, and more!
Interviews That RUINED People’s Lives
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at 10 Interviews That RUINED People’s Lives.
For this list, we’ll be looking at recorded interviews and/or face-to-face discussions that had damaging effects on the lives, reputations, and credibility of the people involved.
Which of these interviews do you remember? Sound off in the comments.
Lance Armstrong with Oprah
When Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France titles were stripped in 2012 over allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, he knew a barrage of controversy - and lawsuits - were headed his way. He had to get ahead of the story, and that meant confessing - despite all of his previous denials. In a 2013 sit-down with Oprah Winfrey, he did exactly that, and was almost too honest about how it all went down. Armstrong later revealed he thought the interview had gone well until the public’s response suggested otherwise. The interview didn’t please the public or those in the cycling community, and helped to make sure his winning legacy would always be eclipsed by the doping scandal.
Leo Kelly on LifeSiteNews
Looking back, it’s kind of hilarious how Leo Christopher Kelly paints his role in the 2021 storming of the Capitol Building. In an interview with Christian website, LifeSiteNews, Kelly describes himself almost as a neutral agent who got caught up in the moment on January 6th, 2021. He was more akin to someone walking through the Capitol as if he were on a sightseeing tour with the thousands of other people who broke in. Well, that was more than enough to incriminate him with the FBI. They arrested him a couple of weeks later. As of 2023, he faces seven federal charges.
Balloon Boy on CNN
The nation was horrified, and then relieved, by the story of six-year-old “Balloon Boy,” Falcon Heene. The family made national news in 2009 when they claimed their son was caught inside a huge gas balloon they launched into the sky. However, after a costly research effort, Falcon Heene was later found hiding in their garage’s attic. During an interview with the whole family on CNN, Falcon let slip that his parents alluded to the whole thing being “for the show.” Their story began to fall apart, and soon, the parents were pleading guilty. They became infamous, but maintained their innocence in the press. Colorado Governor Jared Polis pardoned the parents in 2020, saying they had paid the price in the eyes of the public.
Paula Abdul on Fox
Press days can be rough. You sit in a room for hours, talking to people in different cities all over the country, sometimes even the world. At least, that was Paula Abdul’s explanation for this bizarre interview from the 2000s that quickly went viral. While doing press for the newest season of “American Idol,” Paula was frazzled, and gave incomprehensible answers to the hosts’ questions. Even when the supposed issue was fixed, her behavior just got a little more outlandish from there. Word quickly spread that she was likely under the influence during the interview. Ladies Home Journal claimed Abdul told them about her painkiller use disorder, which she later refuted. Whatever the reason, her wacky interview behavior ignited the rumor mill.
Billy Bush Interviews Donald Trump
In 2005, Donald Trump was over a decade out from his presidency. TV host Billy Bush was reporting for “Access Hollywood” when Trump made now-infamous comments about grabbing women. The comments weren’t part of the actual interview going to air but rather part of the casual convo the two made while preparing for it - but Trump was “apparently aware… he was being recorded.” The eventual surfacing of these comments was meant to be an “October surprise” before the 2016 election, and we know how that turned out. Ironically, Bush faced the harshest consequences. He offered his own inappropriate commentary in the clip, and failed to step in when Trump made mention of Bush’s co-host. Despite taking place a decade before, Bush was suspended from his new position on “Today” over the leaked conversation. Bush was fired from the morning show and has since apologized.
El Chapo with Sean Penn
One of the most feared and powerful drug lords in the world had a soft spot for actresses, apparently. When Mexican-American actress Kate del Castillo brokered a meeting for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and actor Sean Penn, she had no idea Penn would turn it into an interview for Rolling Stone. The revealing interview made clear what everyone already knew about his crimes. This top secret interview apparently allowed authorities to find “El Chapo” and allowed them to stay on his trail until his 2016 arrest. Penn and del Castillo have since spoken out about their involvement in the capture, denying their meeting was somehow responsible. “El Chapo” was tried and convicted for his crimes, and sentenced to life in prison.
Princess Diana with Martin Bashir
In 1995, British journalist Martin Bashir secured the interview of a lifetime with Diana, Princess of Wales for BBC’s “Panorama.” Diana handled his invasive questions well, and gave the public a necessary peek into the hallowed halls of the British monarchy. The interview also contributed to the breakdown of her relationship with the royal family and brought even more intense press scrutiny, which followed her to her untimely death. Allegations later surfaced that Bashir secured the interview unethically, and that his actions were covered up by the BBC. An independent investigation concluded Bashir forged bank statements in order to convince Diana that people close to her were being paid to spy on her. In 2021, Bashir retired from his post at the BBC, citing illness.
Michael Jackson with Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir’s controversial interview style and methods were further scrutinized after his 2003 interviews with the “king of pop,” Michael Jackson. Given eight months of access to the eccentric pop star, Bashir’s documentary included footage of Jackson admitting to sleepovers with children. While the Diana interview was humanizing, Jackson felt double-crossed by his interview with Bashir. His former manager believes it worsened the singer’s substance use disorder, hastening his premature death. Reports that Bashir once again used deception to secure the interview came to light. Colleagues alleged Bashir promised to negotiate a trip with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to accompany Jackson on a trip to Africa in exchange for an interview. His sensational approach and unethical behavior further damaged Bashir’s credibility as a reporter.
Scott Amedure on “The Jenny Jones Show”
Back in the heyday of exploitative daytime talk shows, “The Jenny Jones Show” was just one of several programs that trafficked in shocking and sensationalized stories. However, the show’s most controversial episodes never made it to air. During one episode, the host coaxed guests to reveal their same gender crush, and then brought the object of their affections onstage. Scott Amedure was one of the episode’s interviewees. He confessed his crush on his straight friend, Jonathan Schmitz, who seemed to take the revelation in stride. However, three days later, the humiliated Schmitz shot and killed Amedure. Schmitz was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison, while Amedure’s family unsuccessfully sued the show. Despite the scandal, “The Jenny Jones Show” continued for several more seasons.
Richard Nixon with David Frost
In 1977, former president Richard Nixon was looking to rehab his image. It had been several years since his resignation after the Watergate scandal, which uncovered the rampant corruption in his administration. He saw his upcoming interviews with British journalist David Frost as a way back into the American public’s good graces. Frost didn’t play softball the way the Nixon camp expected. Over nearly a month of interviews, Frost worked away at the disgraced president and got some pretty alarming answers, including Nixon’s assertion that the president is essentially above the law. Though the interviews were a huge success, it was not the success Nixon hoped. It permanently damaged his reputation with the American public he was trying to win back.