Top 20 Stars Who Destroyed Their Careers on Live TV

Top 20 Stars Who Destroyed Their Careers on Live TV
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
All it took was one moment on live TV, and the careers of these stars were destroyed. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 20 stars who destroyed their careers on live TV. For this list, we'll be looking at the most memorable public figures who ruined their careers with a controversial remark or appearance on live television, even if they made a comeback later. Our countdown includes Paula Deen, Jamie Kennedy, Milli Vanilli, Mariah Carey, and more!

All it took was one moment on live TV, and the careers of these stars were destroyed. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 stars who destroyed their careers on live TV. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most memorable public figures who ruined their careers with a controversial remark or appearance on live television, even if they made a comeback later. Our countdown includes Paula Deen, Jamie Kennedy, Milli Vanilli, Mariah Carey, and more! Do you remember watching any of these live? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: Iggy Azalea

Now, we’re not saying that this event was the sole reason for Iggy Azalea’s downfall, but…it certainly didn’t help. Azalea was all the rage in 2014, and people everywhere were singing along to hits like “Fancy” and “Problem.” To celebrate her newfound success, “Dancing with the Stars” invited her to perform “Fancy” on the live finale. Unfortunately, the potential disasters of live TV struck, and Azalea bungled the start of the performance. According to her, there was an issue with the playback in her earpiece. Unfortunately, this incident tarnished an otherwise great year. Furthermore, unrelated problems with her record label caused Azalea’s career to slow. She’s currently on an extended hiatus.

#19: Jamie Kennedy

Nothing screams the ‘90s quite like Jamie Kennedy. He enjoyed success throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s, notably starring in three “Scream” movies, “Romeo + Juliet,” and “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.” And then came “First Night 2013 with Jamie Kennedy.” Now, the comedian’s career was mostly over by then anyway, but this was the final nail in the coffin. It was easily one of the worst New Year’s Eve specials of all time. The broadcast was an epic disaster plagued with embarrassing technical issues, a bizarrely confrontational Kennedy, and an onstage brawl. There was even a mistimed countdown that brought in the new year too late. They couldn’t even get that right?

#18: Steven Seagal

“Saturday Night Live” has a real propensity for ending careers. Steven Seagal was an up and coming action star in the early ‘90s, having starred in a string of hit movies. To capitalize on his newfound success, he hosted “Saturday Night Live” on the night of April 20, 1991. Unfortunately, his appearance was anything but good. According to certain “SNL” employees, including David Spade, Seagal was uncooperative. Some have even regarded him as the show’s worst host of all time. A few more hits followed Seagal’s “SNL” appearance, but he was soon relegated to cheap, direct-to-video action films that no one watched. Maybe nobody wanted to work with him after this?

#17: A. J. Clemente

Maybe he wasn’t a huge star at the time, but news anchor A. J. Clemente has since become an internet sensation. Maybe you don’t know his name, but you certainly know this clip. Clemente was a new co-anchor at KFYR-TV, a news channel based out of North Dakota. During his debut broadcast on April 21, 2013, he let a string of nasty swear words fly just as the opening titles were coming to an end. So, his career as an anchor was effectively over before it even began. Clemente was promptly suspended and let go the next day. The incident made him a national celebrity, and he even appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman” after the host mocked him in a Top 10 List.

#16: Janet Jackson

This is arguably the biggest career-ending fracas in live TV history. You all know the story – Jackson and Justin Timberlake were performing at Super Bowl XXXVIII when Timberlake ripped away her costume and revealed her breast. This was certainly not Jackson’s fault, but everyone acted like it was. Hollywood all but disowned her and pretended that she never existed, and her subsequent album and singles were blacklisted from radio. Even mega conglomerates got in on the boycott, with an executive at Viacom stating that “the higher-ups are still pissed at her.” Luckily, the heat has since died down, and Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

#15: Jenny Slate

This comedian first came to national attention while starring as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” Slate made her debut in the 35th season, which began in September of 2009. Unfortunately, she committed the cardinal sin of live TV and accidentally dropped the f-bomb during her very first episode. This is a major no-no on “Saturday Night Live,” and though it reportedly wasn’t the main reason for her firing, she didn’t return the following season. It looked like Slate had blown her major chance at becoming a comedy star. Luckily, she proceeded to land major roles on “Bob’s Burgers” and “Parks and Recreation,” both of which have allowed her to become a household name.

#14: John Travolta

When the ​​86th Academy Awards rolled around, we were all excited to hear Idina Menzel sing “Let It Go.” After all, the “Frozen” song had a grip on pretty much everyone. But the performance ended up being memorable for something that happened before she ever opened her mouth. John Travolta was in charge of her introduction, but the name that came out of his mouth was one nobody had ever heard before. The mispronunciation was humiliating, to say the least, and Travolta was relentlessly mocked online. He subsequently apologized, and it’s been said that Menzel harbors no ill will toward him for the incident. Travolta’s career recovered, but he certainly heard about Adele Dazeem for quite some time.

#13: Steve Harvey

For a while there, Steve Harvey was the biggest laughingstock in America. But you know how social media is - we all chuckled for a while and then promptly moved on. So did Harvey. One of the busiest TV hosts of our time, he was hired to MC Miss Universe 2015 in Las Vegas. In a moment that lives in infamy, Harvey accidentally crowned Miss Colombia the winner. In reality, she was the first runner-up - a mistake that he corrected after awkwardly sauntering back onstage amid the celebrations. To his credit, Harvey owned the mistake with class. Regardless, the incident was relentlessly mocked on social media, and the host’s reputation was briefly sullied. Luckily, he weathered the storm and continues to enjoy a successful career.

#12: Robin Thicke

This musical artist had been in the industry for years, but he didn’t become a household name until “Blurred Lines” in 2013. Somewhat paradoxically, the song that made Thicke’s career was also the one that ended it. The track received a good amount of criticism for its questionable lyrics and racy music video. But things really flew off the rails when he performed it with Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards. This performance is legendary - just, not in a good way. It immediately became an internet sensation and was widely criticized for being way too crass and raunchy. For a while, it effectively killed Thicke’s career. However, he has since enjoyed a resurgence by appearing as a judge on “The Masked Singer.”

#11: Fergie

By 2018, Fergie was already on her way out of the mainstream limelight. The Black Eyed Peas were in the midst of an extended hiatus, and Fergie hasn’t had a top twenty single as a solo artist since 2007. Despite this, she was chosen to sing the national anthem at the 2018 NBA All Star Game. Unfortunately, her performance was…a little shaky and inappropriately sensual, and many people in attendance could barely contain their laughter. Naturally, it also made the rounds online, and Fergie became a viral national laughingstock. It served as the final nail in Fergie’s coffin, and she hasn’t been heard from since.

#10: Mariah Carey

It’s hard to end a legend like Mariah Carey, but her appearance on “Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve” in 2016 nearly did it. This was a monumental disaster of a performance. Like Iggy Azalea, Carey’s earpiece began to malfunction, causing her to go out of sync with the backing track. Unlike Azalea, Carey didn’t exactly handle it in a professional manner. She simply walked around the stage while passive-aggressively making excuses and complaining about the lack of a soundcheck. To make matters even more hilarious, the dancers soldiered on and continued their choreographed routine while the singer pouted. The moment definitely tarnished her reputation, though we’re not sure that anything could ever break it for good.

#9: Charles Rocket

Charles Rocket had a budding career on “Saturday Night Live” in the early '80s. He was one of the major players in the 1980-81 season, and he became popular for his impressions, his recurring character Phil Lively, and a regular segment called “The Rocket Report”. Unfortunately, Rocket dropped an F-bomb during the February 21, 1981 episode, breaking strict broadcast standards. This, along with the season’s negative reputation and critical reception, resulted in Rocket’s termination. And while he found some success playing comic foils in various '90s movies, he never quite rose above his status as “that guy.” What can we say? Hollywood takes swearing and nudity very seriously!

#8: Paula Deen

Beloved Southern chef Paula Deen found herself in hot water in 2013 when former employee Lisa Jackson sued her for racial and sexual discrimination. According to Jackson, Deen was often derogatory towards African Americans, and even wanted to host a “plantation-style” wedding for her brother, complete with black servants. During the deposition, Deen admitted to using the n-word in the past, further hurting her reputation. She then appeared on “Today” to smooth things over but only made the situation worse by playing the victim. When the whole ordeal was said and done, “Paula’s Best Dishes” had been canceled and Deen had lost numerous lucrative partnerships, as all the major corporations had severed their ties.

#7: Brian Williams

From 1993 to 1999 Brian Williams served as the weekend news anchor on “NBC Nightly News” before being promoted to head anchor in 2004. He held this position until 2015, when he was brought under fire for lying about an event that occurred to him during the Iraq War. According to Williams, a helicopter that he was riding in was taken down by an RPG. Numerous soldiers came forward and claimed that Williams was never a part of this group and was in fact thirty minutes behind. They were left insulted by Williams’ false story, and he was suspended for six months. Following this, he was demoted to chief anchor at MSNBC, and his professional credibility was permanently stained.

#6: Howard Dean

It’s amazing how far politics has come since 2004, when a simple scream was all it took to ruin a career forever. After coming in third in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, Dean made an impassioned and “unpresidential” speech that ended with him pumping his fist and screaming “Yeah!” This speech effectively ended his presidential campaign, and the speech and the scream were relentlessly mocked by the media and late night talk show hosts. It soon became known as The Dean Scream, and some believe that the endless coverage was a product of media bias against the politician. While Dean later became the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, his dreams of becoming President were forever crushed on that fateful day.

#5: Sinéad O'Connor

Sinéad O’Connor’s career was positively blowing up in the late '80s and early '90s. In that time, she released her double platinum album “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”, and her single “Nothing Compares 2 U” peaked at #1 in seventeen countries. However, that all came crumbling down on October 3, 1992, when O’Connor appeared on “SNL.” While performing, she ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest mistreatment of children within the Catholic Church, and soon she became a public enemy. “Nothing Compares 2 U” would be her last #1, and while she continues to release music, she hasn’t had a top five single in her native Ireland since 1994.

#4: Will Smith

No one really cared about the outcomes of the 94th Academy Awards. All they cared about was that Will Smith casually strolled on stage and slapped Chris Rock directly in the face. Rock had made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith initially laughed but proceeded to slap Rock for the comment. The audience seemingly believed that it was a scripted bit at first, as they casually laughed at the attack. It wasn’t until Smith yelled and cursed at Rock that everyone realized he was dead serious. The resulting silence was painful. No matter what Smith does from here on out, he’ll forever be known as the guy who slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars.

#3: Kathie Lee Gifford

This event didn’t completely kill Gifford’s career as a television presenter, as she continued hosting “Today” until 2019. However, it did seriously tarnish her reputation and caused her great public embarrassment. In 2012, comedian Martin Short appeared on Gifford’s show to promote “Madagascar 3.” During the interview, Gifford praised Short’s marriage to Nancy Dolman, unaware that Dolman had passed away from cancer about two years earlier. Short didn’t expose the mistake, but it was obvious that the topic of conversation was causing him pain. He informed Gifford of Dolman’s passing during the commercial break, and later publicly forgave her. It was a fantastic look for Short, and a not so fantastic one for Gifford.

#2: Milli Vanilli

In 1989, R&B duo Milli Vanilli released “Girl You Know It’s True”, an album that reached #1 and was certified 6x platinum. They also released five straight top five singles in the United States, three of which topped the chart. However, a huge hiccup occurred on July 21, 1989, when a live performance for MTV suffered a technical malfunction. The track began to skip, revealing that singer Rob Pilatus was lip-synching. While this prompted doubts regarding the duo’s authenticity, it wasn’t until their album was released in America that singer Charles Shaw revealed that his work was being credited to Pilatus and Fab Morvan. With this, the duo admitted to being frauds, and Milli Vanilli was no more.

#1: Ashlee Simpson

This was arguably the biggest gaffe in live television history, and the blame pretty clearly fell on Simpson. While “performing” on “SNL” in 2004, she accidentally revealed that she was lip-synching when the vocals to “Pieces of Me” began to play in place of those from “Autobiography.” Not knowing what to do, she awkwardly danced off stage and later blamed the band for playing the wrong song. So, not only was she lip-synching on “SNL,” which in itself is a big no-no, she proceeded to throw her band under the bus. Except, no one bought this, and Simpson’s career was left in tatters. And that, dear viewers, is why you never lip-synch!