In what was a jaw-dropping admission, Amazon Prime Video and Fox Sports anchor Charissa Thompson said on a podcast this week that when she was a TV sideline reporter on football games, she sometimes fabricated a report for the broadcast.
Appearing on Barstool’s popular “Pardon My Take,” Thompson said this isn’t the first time she has admitted this publicly.
She said, “I, and I’ve said this before, so I haven’t been fired for saying it, but I’ll say it again: I would make up the report sometimes because, A., the coach wouldn’t come out at halftime or it was too late and I was like, I didn’t want to screw up the report, so I was like, ‘I’m just gonna make this up.’”
Thompson continued by saying, “Because, first of all, no coach is gonna get mad if I say, ‘Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves, we need to be better on third down, we need to stop turning the ball over … and do a better job of getting off the field.’ Like, they’re not gonna correct me on that.”
For the record, in 2022, on a podcast she still does with sideline reporter Erin Andrews, Thompson said, “I was like, ‘Oh, coach, what adjustments are you gonna make at halftime?’ He goes, ‘That’s a great perfume you’re wearing.’ I was like, ‘Oh (expletive), this isn’t gonna work.’ I’m not kidding, I made up a report.”
Andrews chimed in with, “I’ve done that too. For a coach that I didn’t wanna throw under the bus because he was telling me all the wrong stuff!”
Those comments in 2022, for whatever reason, didn’t get the reaction that Thompson’s most recent comments have, although Mediaite’s Brandon Contes did write about it back then.
As far as the comments this week, I must say I’m truly stunned, flabbergasted, whatever the strongest word is for, “I can’t actually believe she said that!”
It isn’t clear when she might have made up coaches’ quotes — it could have been 15 years ago or so. But her seemingly flippant attitude in the “Pardon My Take” interview makes you wonder if she even today understands the seriousness of her transgressions.
New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand tweeted: “Charissa Thompson messed up on many levels. 1) Making up reports. Pretty self evident as to why. 2) I get it PMT is a relaxed environment, but revealing that was an odd choice. 3) All the sideline reporters who do the job correctly look bad as a result.”
Marchand’s third point is one of my main takeaways: Thompson’s shocking admission, unfairly but assuredly, brings into question the legitimacy of all sideline reporters in the minds of many in the audience. Fans already predisposed to disliking sideline reports and in-game interviews can now say, “Wait, not only is this a waste of time, but now you’re telling me these reports might not even be true?!”
The story spread like wildfire Thursday afternoon into the evening with Thompson being roundly criticized, especially in media circles.
Benjamin Solak, NFL writer for The Ringer, tweeted, “I usually try to avoid getting grumpy on here but: this really blows! It’s very discouraging! I can’t get it out of my head! Please give jobs to people who work hard and want to do them well!”
ESPN’s Molly McGrath tweeted, “Young reporters: This is not normal or ethical. Coaches and players trust us with sensitive information, and if they know that you’re dishonest and don’t take your role seriously, you’ve lost all trust and credibility.”
CBS’s Tracy Wolfson, one of the most prominent football sideline reporters there is, tweeted, “This is absolutely not ok, not the norm and upsetting on so many levels. I take my job very seriously, I hold myself accountable for all I say, I build trust with coaches and never make something up. I know my fellow reporters do the same.”
Another prominent sideline reporter, Lisa Salters from ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” tweeted, “Shocked. Disappointed. Disgusted. What we heard today called all sideline reporters into question. My job is an honor, a privilege and a craft at which I have worked so hard. … Trust and credibility. They mean everything to a journalist. To violate either one – in any way – not only makes a mockery of the profession, but is a disservice to players, coaches and, most importantly, to fans.”
Chris Kirschner, who covers the New York Yankees for The Athletic, tweeted, “A good portion of the public doesn’t trust the media as is. I cannot believe she would proudly admit this. This causes significant harm to the people who actually take the job seriously. It’s entirely unethical and worthy of never working in the field again.”
I was a sportswriter for more than 30 years — 15 of which were as a sports columnist. I’ve been a media columnist for the past five years. I cannot remember ever calling for someone’s job. But that streak might end depending on how Thompson handles this.
She, as well as Fox and Amazon, can’t sit quiet and hope this story just goes away. It has become too big. She needs to address it sooner rather than later. She needs to show some remorse, offer some sort of explanation and at least show some understanding of what she admitted to. (Thompson did not address it while hosting Thursday night’s pregame on Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football.”)
USA Today columnist Mike Freeman wrote, “There’s no way Thompson, who has been doing this for more than a decade and knows better, should survive this. This is a firing offense. It’s not even close.”
Yes, this apparently happened a long time ago. But she did the worst thing a journalist could do: She made stuff up. That’s inexcusable. It doesn’t matter that it might have been about something as insignificant as what an NFL coach says about his defense. That doesn’t matter.
This is what matters: SHE MADE STUFF UP!
The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel tweeted, “She admitted this out loud? Why would anyone trust anything she reports from here on out?”
And that’s the point. Her credibility has been severely damaged, and she might have damaged the credibility of all sideline reporters.
Former longtime “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter Michele Tafoya tweeted, “Honestly, this makes me sad. Charissa is a nice person, but this is professional fraud. If a coach won’t talk to you at halftime, you say that. And if there is no report, then you just don’t file a report at halftime. It’s pretty simple. Journalistic integrity is paramount.”
Perhaps Thompson will keep her job if Amazon and Fox both dismiss this as something that happened years ago in a job she no longer has.
But veteran journalist Jeff Pearlman tweeted, “Honestly, I don’t see how Thompson keeps her job.”
On Friday morning, hours after this story was published, Thompson put out a statement on Instagram. She wrote:
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. I have a responsibility to myself and my employers to clarify what is being reported. When on a podcast this week, I said I would make up reports early in my career when I worked as a sideline reporter before I transitioned to my current host role.
Working in media I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation. I’m sorry. I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster.
In the absence of a coach providing any information that could further my report I would use information that I learned and saw during the first half to create my report. For example, if a team was. 0 for 7 on 3rd down, that would clearly be an area they need to improve on in the second half. In these instances, I never attributed anything I said to a player or coach.
I have nothing but respect for sideline reporters and for the tireless work they put in behind the scenes and on the field. I am only appreciative and humbled to work alongside some of the best in the business and call them some of my best friends.
Thompson’s statement, however, didn’t satisfy many on social media. For example, Action Network sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted, “Charissa Thompson said she did not do what she said she did.”
Thompson’s explanation does sound a little like Rovell suggests. After all, she literally said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast that she would “make this up” when she couldn’t get a coach for a halftime interview. And by later saying on the podcast that “no coach was gonna get mad” at her certainly suggested that she was attributing quotes to a coach she never talked to at halftime.
Yet in her statement, Thompson wrote that she “never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster” and that she “never attributed anything I said to a player or coach.”
Is that true? That’s not how her podcast comments came off, but her explanation could be enough for her current employers — Amazon Prime Video and Fox Sports, where she works as a studio host — to keep her employed. Neither Amazon nor Fox has commented so far.
This update was added Friday, Nov. 17 at 1:05 p.m.
Reaction to the Post story on mass shootings
On Thursday, The Washington Post published a piece about the damage done in mass shootings by AR-15s.
As I wrote in my Thursday newsletter, “To have the most impact, the Post told the story through photos, videos and the words of those who have survived these horrific shootings.”
Make no mistake, the photos and videos are extremely graphic, and the words of the survivors are incredibly chilling. This was not an easy project to see. That was the point. It was supposed to be disturbing. As Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee told me, “We know it’s very sensitive material and very disturbing and we know it will be disturbing to people. … News organizations rarely publish extremely graphic content around these things. And we just felt that there was a lack of understanding of what actually happens in these shootings. We’re really just trying to say what the destructive power is and what these (weapons) actually do. I think our main hope is people just get a more factual, realistic view of what happens in these highly destructive mass shootings.”
So what was the reaction from readers?
As of Thursday evening, just 12 hours after it was published online, there were well over 3,000 reader comments below the story. Most of the comments credited the Post.
Many were some form of this comment: “More of this. Finally. We NEED to see this. The horror. It needs to be real. Our families and communities are experiencing unprecedented trauma, and it has been kept under cover. I have so much gratitude for the groups that gave you access to these images and stories. They need to be heard.”
Another wrote, “I kept looking away. I kept coming back. Because we can’t keep looking away.”
Before the story was published, one parent of a child killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, encouraged people to not read or share the piece.
But Brett Cross, whose son was killed in the Uvalde shooting, posted a powerful message on X. It’s quite lengthy, but I encourage you to read it. He wrote, in part, “With nothing but love and respect to every family out there, from anybody who lost a loved one at our shooting, to the others displayed in this article, I disagree with not showing the public. I disagree with the public turning a blind eye to the reality that is America. I’ve waited nearly two years for information and our city, state, and government still refuse to give us any. While these photos are disturbing and truly shocking, it lets you see just a modicum of the scenes that constantly invade my thoughts and nightmares.”
Again, there is much more to his message. He closed with, “So view the article. Breathe it in. Smell the gunfire. See the destruction. See the pain.”
Poynter celebrates Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper will be honored with the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism at the 2023 Bowtie Ball in Tampa on Saturday evening.
Cooper is one of the most recognized faces in news today. He anchors CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” which celebrated its 20th anniversary in September. Cooper’s work on the program has produced countless memorable moments, including an interview with the stepfather of a girl who was killed in the Uvalde shooting, and an emotional segment in which he read the names of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Amaris Castillo recapped some of those moments in an article for Poynter this week.
Cooper also hosts “The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper” on Sundays. The program has delved deeply into the war between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks.
Cooper’s podcast, “All There Is,” which focuses on grief, will soon unveil its second season, which will include an interview with President Joe Biden. This morning, Angela Fu explored the origins of the podcast — Cooper’s grief over his mother’s death and his subsequent need to clean out her apartment — in an article for Poynter.
Cooper will receive the medal at Poynter’s annual fundraising gala, the Bowtie Ball. He joins an esteemed roster of Poynter Medal recipients, including Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Lesley Stahl, Chris Wallace, Katie Couric, Lester Holt, Judy Woodruff, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer.
Media tidbits and notable links for your weekend review
- The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University released its annual State of Local News report Thursday. Poynter’s Angela Fu has a summary: “US lost more than two local newspapers a week this year, new Medill report finds.”
- Though BDG Media sold Gawker to a Singapore-based organization on Wednesday, its archives weren’t included in the deal. But good news for people who like snarky news: They are now available at gawkerarchives.com.
- Did Apple abruptly cancel comedian Jon Stewart’s Apple TV show because of segments that focused on China or artificial intelligence? Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle and Michael Martina dig in with “US lawmakers question Apple over Jon Stewart’s China content.”
- Politico’s Jack Shafer puts the heat on presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s call to ban anonymous posting in “The Implosion of Nikki Haley’s Social Media Crusade.”
- “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell interviewed Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday night about the hostages held inside Gaza, his assessment of potential war crimes and the viability of a two-state solution.
- Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anne Boyer explains why she resigned as poetry editor of The New York Times Magazine in her Substack.
- “Network of Lies,” Brian Stelter’s newest book on Fox News, came out this week. For Salon, here’s Melanie McFarland with the book’s six most revealing details.
- For The New York Times, Alex Vadukul with “At 98, She’s a Social Media Star: Dorothy Wiggins needed a hobby after the death of her husband. Now she’s big on TikTok and Instagram.”
More resources for journalists
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