Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Confrontational News Moments Ever. For this list, we’ll be looking at the angriest and most controversial moments to happen on news programs across the globe. Have you ever been on the news? Let us know below!
Before Tucker Carlson became a commentator on Fox News and then got fired, he hosted “Crossfire” for CNN alongside Paul Begala. In October 2004, Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” fame appeared on the show to promote his novel, “America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction.” Stewart soon began criticizing “Crossfire” and the hosts. While Begala took it in his stride, Carlson was seemingly very hurt and got verbally combative as he insulted Stewart’s interviewing methods. This sparked the two polarizing figures to trade insults. The highlight was the comedian calling Carlson a certain human appendage. Many folks attribute this interview to why “Crossfire” was canceled in 2005.
When you think of the ideal politician, personality traits such as kindness, calmness, and integrity spring to mind. But those apparently don’t belong to former congressman and convicted fraudster Michael Grimm. In 2014, he was interviewed by NY1 reporter Michael Scotto. After discussing the State of the Union Address, Scotto asked Grimm about his financial investigation. And he didn’t take it well and left the interview. Thinking he couldn’t be heard, Grimm then threatened Scotto by claiming he would break him in half and throw him off the balcony if the reporter blindsided him again. While Grimm apologized later for his violent words, allegations of him being aggressive to other journalists soon followed.
The job of an interviewer is to promote the guest and try to get some fun news from them. Not to banter amongst themselves and act like obnoxious characters in a high school comedy. But that’s what the hosts of “Morning Joe” did in 2013 when comedian and actor Russell Brand appeared to promote his tour. Immediately, he was disrespectfully introduced by Mika Brzezinski, foreshadowing the calamity to follow. The presenters kept talking about Brand as though he wasn’t there and chatted about his attire and accent, causing him to snap and call out their rudeness. After the hosts got his name wrong multiple times, Brand basically took over the segment until it finished. In a later episode, the hosts barely apologized for their actions.
In 2017, the local news team of WTVF went to Mt. Juliet, Tennessee to speak to Jude Pischke. For two years, he and his family had lived in an abandoned house as squatters. Pischke believed he had a legal right to reside there since he was paying taxes. But when WTVF arrived and asked Pischke about the property and the legal fight, he didn’t want to engage and swore repeatedly. But the crew persisted. So, Pischke went over to his truck, grabbed an ax, and threatened them to leave. Unsurprisingly, the weapon-wielder was arrested for his actions. Pischke pled guilty to a count of assault and received two years of probation. On top of that, the family left the house.
Instead of criticizing laws and the media, some reporters take the easy opinion and blame films, TV shows, and video games for inspiring violent attacks. In 2013, director Quentin Tarantino was interviewed by Channel 4 News’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy, shortly after a mass attack in Newtown, Connecticut. Instead of promoting “Django Unchained,” Guru-Murthy pressed Tarantino on the connection between real-life and screen violence. The animated director refused to respond, as he’d covered this topic many times before. Tarantino made the point that this was a commercial for his movie. But the journalist continued trying to get a scoop, forcing Tarantino to say, “I’m shutting your butt down!” Instead of learning from the experience, Guru-Murthy was just as forceful with Robert Downey Jr. in 2015.
Before he was fired for his own harassment allegations and defending his brother Andrew’s scandal, Chris Cuomo hosted “Cuomo Prime Time” for CNN. And in September 2019, he had Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on. At the time, the scandal that Trump had asked Ukraine for dirt on Hunter Biden was doing the rounds. So, Giuliani wanted to get ahead of the story. Instead, he made it a million times worse, somehow. Immediately, the former Mayor Mayor of New York was verbally aggressive to Cuomo. When the reporter asked him about the allegations, Giuliani rejected them. Within moments, he confirmed he did ask Ukraine. Yikes. The interview was a mess as both parties spoke over each other, and Giuliani made several insults about CNN.
It’s bizarre when interviewers immediately show disrespect to their guests, only to be shocked at getting an icy reaction. In 2015, Cara Delevingne was doing interviews to promote her role in “Paper Towns.” As such, she appeared on “Good Day Sacramento.” Straight away, Marianne McClary introduced her as “Carla,” and it all went downhill from there. Delevingne was then asked if she had read the book the film was based on. The actor responded with sarcasm that she just “winged it.” Later, the hosts aggressively questioned Delevingne if she was tired or annoyed. It was incredibly condescending, especially when they finished by suggesting she should have a Red Bull. Afterward, Delevingne stated they didn’t understand sarcasm or British humor.
Piers Morgan has become known for slating Meghan Markle any chance he can get. And in 2021, Morgan’s opinions of the actor came back to bite him. After going off on a rant on “Good Morning Britain” about Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, weather reporter Alex Beresford had enough. He calmly and heavily criticized Morgan for dismissing Markle’s honest conversation about her mental health the previous day. Morgan then proceeded to storm off the set. While he returned to finish the show, Morgan later quit the program.
The former Mayor and police commissioner of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo was a very controversial figure who’d been accused of promoting racist policies. In 1980, Rizzo damaged a camera belonging to a news crew when they were stationed outside his house on a public street. This spurred KYW reporter Stan Bohrman to confront the former Mayor over the incident. He found Rizzo walking his dog and approached him. Immediately, Rizzo refused to speak to Bohrman. As the reporter kept pressing, Rizzo threatened him with a fistfight and resorted to insults. He infamously called Bohrman a “creep,” “crumb bum,” and -- bizarrely -- a “crumb creep lush coward.” The reporter deadpanning by stating Rizzo doesn’t even know him was delightful.
In 2008, then-US President George W. Bush hosted a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq alongside the country’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Watching with his fellow journalists was Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who blamed Bush and the US for the massive number of casualties in the Iraq War. Al-Zaidi called the president a “dog” in Arabic and threw a shoe at Bush, who ducked. Armed with one more, al-Zaidi lobbed his remaining shoe, which also missed, before being restrained by security. While many in the Middle East saw al-Zaidi’s actions as heroic, the US and the Iraqi government did not. The journalist later served nine months in jail for the incident.
This story is a fairly serious one, but certainly a headline that you’ll never forget. It’s also quite unique in that this entry has a very cold confrontational moment and yet there is only one person involved. After receiving an email from an anonymous source that criticized her weight, WKBT News Anchor Jennifer Livingston turned the situation on its head. Livingston, who has a medical condition that affects her weight, used her platform and confronted not just the emailer, but any would-be body shamer out there. Unanimously and deservedly praised for her candor, Livingston proved how to stand up for yourself in a dignified way.
Also in the news… list, is this—now-infamous—moment, which is not only intense but probably saved some lives in the process. Still, this emergency update was apparently a huge inconvenience to “The Bachelorette” fans wanting to see what Hannah Brown had to say. And they were none too happy to have weatherman Jamie Simpson interrupt the broadcast to, y’know, warn of an impending tornado. Another moment in which an on-screen personality is confronting someone through the camera, Simpson was having none of the social media backlash from “The Bachelorette” faithful. His outburst angrily reminded them that their personal safety was way more important. Several hours after a tornado touched down, lead star Hannah Brown took to twitter to back Simpson up.
In other news… related moments of this list, we have a confrontation between co-workers that would have been hilarious to watch live—provided you weren’t too busy darting to the nearest storm-shelter, of course. What is it about weathermen and their hot tempers? Then again, it’s tough staying cool on live TV. In a clip that made its way to “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” weatherman Matt Laubhan can be seen berating news anchor John Dolusic for not paying attention to the impending weather warning. The atmosphere was more tense in the studio—but Laubhan gets a pass for his impassioned stance. The last time he was delivering a tornado warning, he had to evacuate the studio.
In some related news, this particular entry involves a confrontational moment between weatherman and anchor. On the morning of August 30th, meteorologist Chad Myers was giving his daily update on the path of Hurricane Katrina. Before he could get into it, Carol Costello cut in and asked him—albeit somewhat rudely—to call it as plainly as he could. In her defense, when dealing with such a serious issue, perhaps Myers could have simplified things a little. Instead, he blew up—sharply demanding that Carol “let him talk!” Ouch Chad! Luckily it was very early in the morning so fewer people saw his rage, and besides, he was “just joking…” apparently.
And in other news… sometimes confrontation can be a cool reminder that journalists aren’t to be taken for granted. Particularly in the local news programming, where the press aren’t as protected, tensions can quickly rise. Such was the case in November 2012, when Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV News sent field journalist Courtney Brennan to Newell in order to report on a finding of explosives in a residential area. Whilst setting up, herself and her crew were approached by a local resident and berated. We’re giving credit where it is due: Brennan did not give an inch or back down, despite the aggressive behavior she unexpectedly faced.
This news (event) was a long time coming. In 2016, CNN News personality Kate Bolduan was given a show, initially to report on the presidential election. To ensure that the show had no bias towards any political leanings, guests from the left were just as welcome as guests from the right, with Bolduan mediating. During a discussion into the White House allegedly sharing information with Russia, former Navy Seal and Donald Trump supporter Carl Higbie started questioning the legitimacy of anonymous sources if they wouldn’t state their names. Higbie began shouting about how anonymous sources should be named. The onslaught of Higbie’s naive statement didn’t end, and other guests soon took him to task. We get the feeling they’d had this conversation before...
In breaking news… former CNN host Brooke Baldwin gave viewers the ultimate confrontation during a three-way conversation in September 2017. Ironically, this moment came about during a longer and heated debate over the practice of free speech—as Jemele Hill’s tweets had gotten her into hot water with the White House and ESPN. Still, Clay Travis’s remarks (that he believes in only the “first amendment and boobs”) did little but annoy Baldwin—who was trying to promote more women with her platform. After clarifying that he didn’t say “booze,” Baldwin finally pulled the rug out from under Travis’ feet and cut him off. And that’s goodnight for him...
News from the White House now. When you think of great rivalries, you can have Frazier vs Ali, The Rock vs Austin, David vs Goliath—but the most intriguing heavyweight bouts of recent times is Trump vs Jiang. Since 2018, reporter Weijia Jiang has been the White House correspondent for CBS news—and for some reason then-President Donald Trump took an instant dislike to her. He’s told her to keep her voice down,” referred to her questions as “nasty” and accused her of fabricating a “gotcha” moment—all on separate occasions. But nothing compares to the press conference in which he told Jiang, who is of Chinese origin, to “ask China” about coronavirus responses. When challenged, he backtracked—and when challenged again, he abruptly walked off stage. Running away? You decide…
In local news…rooms, tensions can be very high. With small teams, the intimacy of the office can lead to strong relationships or butting heads. It’s a testament to one’s professionalism to keep the behind the scenes animosity away from the public eye. But it’s much funnier when fights happen on camera—just ask Jerry Springer. Anchor Jim Ryan got into it with reporter Dick Oliver when the latter seemed to let the news story go. Oliver’s response was to immediately move onto the offensive, reminding Ryan that he used to be the boss. The moment was long considered to be the inspiration behind the Herb Welch character on “Saturday Night Live.” Though the “SNL” team deny that, it’s hard to ignore the similarities.
And finally… our top story is an event that started in the news and then made the news—before ending up in the courtroom. Weijia Jiang may’ve been one of Donald Trump’s least favorite correspondents, but CNN’s Jim Acosta could be the ex-President’s nemesis. During a White House press conference in which he challenged Trump over his “invasion” of migrants from South America remarks, Acosta gently blocked the intern attempting to take the microphone. Trump accused Acosta of physically shoving her, and had Acosta’s press pass revoked. Judges expressed this was a contravention of the fifth amendment. The case was settled when Acosta was reinstated. Say what you like about the 45th President, but he did provide some confrontational moments on the news.