Cursing on air was once enough to get you blackballed from television – and it still can bring down that kind of punishment. But A.J. Clemente is finding that very act can also bring great fame.
Clemente is the now-former TV anchor who began his first broadcast on KFYR in Bismarck, N.D. by uttering two expletives in succession Sunday night, unaware his microphone was on and his words were being broadcast to viewers. Even though he was fired from the station pretty quickly after his slip, he has become a talk-show hero, owing, perhaps, to the amount of interest the video of his on-air gaffe has generated online. He made appearances Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” and the Walt Disney-syndicated “Live! With Kelly and Michael.” He has also been booked to appear on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman.”
Broadcast networks have in the past taken a dim view of profanity, especially that pertaining to the f-sort which was part of Clemente’s utterance. Now they are glorifying it.
Transmitting certain words – you can probably guess which ones – often draws the attention of the Federal Communicaitons Commission, not to mention that segment of the viewership that feels the public, tax-supported airwaves are no place for profanity. In 2003, for example, U2’s Bono used the words “f—ing brilliant” on NBC’s broadcast of the Golden Globes, spurring FCC scrutiny.
TV networks do their best to sweep such stuff under the rug. In 1981, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Charles Rocket uttered the “f-word” during the show. Not to long afterwards, he was dismissed with other members of the cast in a cost-cutting move. In 2009, “SNL” newcomer Jenny Slate said the word “f—in'” purely by accident, but did not return to the show the next season.
Even critically acclaimed scripted programming isn’t immune from the time-honored policy. The cops on the gritty drama “Southland” used the phrase “shut the f— up” during the show’s first season. NBC, which was broadcasting the show, bleeped the profanity even though it was clear what words were being said.
Clemente’s turn on “Live!” appears to have struck a chord. During Wednesday’s broadcast, hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan offered the out-of-work TV journalist a temp job. “You’re a native New Yorker. And one thing about New Yorkers, we believe in giving second chances, man,” Strahan said during the broadcast. “So, we have a challenge for you, if you’re willing to accept it. We’re going to send you to cover the star-studded red carpet premiere of Pierce Brosnan’s new movie, ‘Love Is All You Need.’”
Clemente is set to return to “Live!” Thursday morning to recap the event. No word on whether his newfound fortune has prompted him to use more profanity behind the scenes. Given what has happened to him, no word is probably better than some of the words he has used.