Famous People Who Destroyed Their Careers In A Matter Of Seconds

Falling from grace can certainly hurt if you've built a fortune in the spotlight. Unfortunately, famous people aren't immune to mistakes and quite honestly, they're held to a higher standard than most. While most people may be granted a second chance, these well-known people were axed or demoted after making awful comments or being caught behaving badly. In all, their careers were decimated by their actions. From Brian Williams embellishing war stories to Paula Deen confessing to using the N-word, to Giuliana Rancic making a single joke that literally fractured her long tenure at E! News, here are a group of stars whose careers went up in flames in a matter of seconds. 

Brian Williams

As one of America's most recognizable newsmen, Brian Williams' fall from grace was hard and fast. In 2015, he was caught embellishing stories about his war reporting. The added details, which turned out to be false, made the stories more dramatic and painted him as more heroic. According to Variety, Williams made up statements about reporting in Iraq in 2003. His inflated stories appeared not only on the Nightly News, but on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman. As it goes, Williams claims he was reporting in a helicopter under fire in Iraq in 2003. The men and women in uniform on that same flight had different versions of events. The inflated stories made many worry if Williams was capable of telling the news without extra bells and whistles.

According to USA Today, Williams was suspended for six months without pay for "misremembering" his reporting. "As I'm sure you understand, this was a very hard decision," wrote NBC News President Deborah Turness. "Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action."

Williams also apologized, saying, "I'm sorry. I said things that weren't true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers," reports the Los Angeles Times. "I am determined to win back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on Nightly News but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor. I will support him 100 percent as he has always supported me."

Months later, he chalked up the snafu to having an inflated ego. "It had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else," he told Matt Lauer in a wide-ranging interview according to Variety. "I am sorry for what's happened here. I am different as a result."

Following his suspension, Williams was permanently removed from his Nightly News anchor seat and reassigned to cover breaking news on the less popular MSNBC.

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner could have been a political tour de force in New York and perhaps the nation had he kept his horniness in check. He first burst on the scene in the '90s as he ran for congress in Brooklyn, New York. But his career would spiral beyond control in the spring of 2011. According to People, Weiner was caught in his first sexting scandal after an image of his crotch was inadvertently sent out on Twitter. At the time, he claimed to be hacked but days later confessed to carrying out inappropriate relationships with six women. "I have done things I deeply regret," he said in a public apology. "I apologize to my wife and our families. I'm deeply ashamed."

In an attempt for a comeback during the 2013 mayoral race, Weiner once again faced a fresh round of sexting allegations. In July of that year, he confessed to sending sexually explicit photos to a woman online. And those nasty headlines returned once more in 2016. This time, the photos were not only sexual in nature but one featured his young son next to him.

As a result, Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, announced she was leaving their marriage in a statement. "After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband," Abedin said. "Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy."

Elliot Spitzer

After one short year as governor of New York State, Elliot Spitzer was caught in a wild prostitution ring, reports The New York Times. In March 2008, the political frontman was caught red-handed on a federal wiretap discussing meeting a high-priced prostitute in Washington, D.C. He allegedly met the woman on February 13 at the Mayflower Hotel. Acknowledging his wrongdoing, Spitzer read a brief statement to the media.

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and that violates my — or any — sense of right and wrong," he said. "I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better. I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good and doing what is best for the State of New York. But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself."

He would also resign from his post saying, "I look at my time as governor, with a sense of what might have been," according to CNBC. "There's much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself."

Essentially, his political career was over. But in 2014, his private life would unravel even more just years after his prostitution scandal made national headlines. He and wife Silda Spitzer ended their marriage after 26 years together, reports New York magazine. In their agreement, Silda was given a lump sum of $7.5 million and was guaranteed $240,000 a year until she dies or remarries. She was also given the couple's pricey Fifth Avenue apartment.

Billy Bush

Who knew an old conversation with then mere reality star and businessman Donald Trump would come back to bite Billy Bush in the rear end? In October 2016, weeks before the hotly contested presidential election, audio conversation between Bush and Trump surfaced via The Washington Post. The conversation, in which Trump makes sexually suggestive comments about women, took place 11 years prior. Of the many remarks Trump makes, he claims women let him do whatever he wants and that he would "grab them by the p***y. You can do anything." Bush doesn't share much in the recording, but goes along with the terrible conversation.

While the leaked footage did little to slow Trump's campaign for the White House, it absolutely ended Bush's career, which by this time had taken him to the Today show.

"Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed," Bush said in a statement, according to People. "It's no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I'm very sorry." Although his apology seemed sincere, it apparently wasn't enough for NBC execs as Bush was cut from the morning show, reported Page Six. It was speculated that he was given $10 million in the settlement, and has yet to make any return to television.

In April of 2017, Bush made a short Instagram video during a haircut in which he sings he's trying to get back on TV, according to Fox News. It's unclear if or when he'll be able to land a spot back on television.

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly was a conservative figure on Fox News for 21 years, according to USA Today. But his fall from the top of the ratings chart to disgraced anchor happened after The New York Times published an April 2017 story claiming 21st Century Fox shelled out $13 million in settlements with five woman who claimed sexual harassment.

Per Variety, the women accused the figurehead of several inappropriate acts including making lewd comments, verbal abuse and unsolicited phone calls "in which it sounded as if Mr. O'Reilly was masturbating." At the time, O'Reilly called himself a "target" for such allegations. Days later, numerous big-name advertisers pulled its brands from his popular O'Reilly Factor show. Those included BMW, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi, Allstate and others.

On April 11, O'Reilly stepped out of the spotlight for an alleged pre-planned vacation. But seemingly no one knew it would be his last time on air as he was ousted by April 19. The Murdoch family, which runs the massive news conglomerate, said it works to "underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect."

By April 24, O'Reilly had re-emerged from his vacation on his podcast, No Spin News, and without a TV job. "Hey, I missed you guys," he started according to NBC News. "I am sad that I'm not on television anymore. I was very surprised how it all turned out. I can't say a lot, because there's much stuff going on right now. But I can tell you that I'm very confident the truth will come out, and when it does, I don't know if you're going to be surprised — but I think you're going to be shaken, as I am. There's a lot of stuff involved here."

John Edwards

A work relationship turned personal brought down former North Carolina U.S. Senator John Edwards. According to ABC News, Edwards first came in contact with filmmaker Rielle Hunter in 2006. The pair worked together on a series of webisodes chronicling Edward's race to the White House in 2008. By early 2007, the webisodes were mysteriously pulled from his website while Edwards' longtime wife, Elizabeth Edwards announced that her cancer had returned and was incurable. By the fall of 2008, a year away from the presidential election, National Enquirer reported that Edwards carried out an affair with a staffer. He, of course, denied it all. "The story is false," he shared. "It's completely untrue, ridiculous... I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years, and as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being; warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known."

Weeks later a pregnant photo of Hunter emerged and speculations grew even stronger. In February 2008, Hunter gave birth to a baby girl and the child's father was mysteriously left off the birth certificate. A month later, Edwards came clean about having an affair, but denied being the father of the baby.

In the summer of 2009, Edwards faced criminal allegations that he misused campaign funds to keep his mistress quiet when it was uncovered that Hunter was paid more than $100,000. The following January of 2010, Edwards finally admited he's the father of that little girl. "It was wrong for me to ever deny she was my daughter, and, hopefully, one day, when she understands, she will forgive me," Edwards says.

In the end, Edwards was charged with conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. In May 2012, the judge to declared a mistrial and Edwards escaped a 30 year prison sentence, according to ABC News.

Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo Yiannopoulos is a British media personality known for his controversial remarks on Muslims, trans people, race, sex and more. But his commentary on gay men having sex with boys age 13 crossed the line for many. In a recorded discussion on the Drunken Peasants podcast in 2016, Yiannopoulos advocated for child abuse. "No, no, no. You're misunderstanding what pedophilia means," he started. "Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty." He believes that 13-year-olds aren't children and that the idea of consent is "arbitrary and oppressive." What was perhaps confusing is that Yiannopoulos was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of two men from ages 13-16, reports NBC News and The New York Times.

By February 2017, the flames were out of control on Yiannopoulos' career. The Conservative Political Action Conference rescinded its offer for Yiannopoulos to speak and Simon & Schuster pulled the plug on plans to release his upcoming book, Dangerous.

After tremendous outcry, the outspoken figure was forced to apologize and resign from his post at Breitbart. "I do not advocate for illegal behavior," he said in his public apology. "I do not support child abuse. It's a disgusting crime of which I have been a victim." He claims his decision to quit his job was his alone. "I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues' important reporting," he said also thanking the site for allowing him to "carry conservative and libertarian ideas to communities that would otherwise never have heard them."

In the aftermath, he also revealed plans to launch his own media company and will release his book through another publishing house.

Paula Deen

Paula Deen's foul language in a leaked deposition cost her her entire career. According to Fox News, Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers were being sued for $1.2 million for allegedly using the N-word at their restaurant and for Hiers allegedly sexually harassing a worker. In Dean's deposition, she confessed to using the N-word and planning plantation-style weddings with all black servers.

When asked if she ever used the N-word, Deen says "Yes, of course." She recalled using it when she was robbed at gunpoint and at other times without specifying exactly when. But she claims to not use the word in a racist jokes. "Things have changed since the '60s in the South," she said. "And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior."

After her comments made headlines, Deen was cut from the Food Network, which aired two of her shows, reports The New York Times. A spokesperson for the network said her contract would not be renewed.

Deen then went on an unsuccessful apology tour. "I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I've done," Deen tearfully said in a video apology after canceling her appearance on Today. "I want to learn and grow from this. Inappropriate and hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable." The video was eventually taken down and a longer version was uploaded. In the second attempt, Deen seemed to pull herself together to address the matter saying, "Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter," she said. "I was wrong, yes, I've worked hard, and I have made mistakes, but that is no excuse and I offer my sincere apology to those that I have hurt, and I hope that you forgive me because this comes from the deepest part of my heart."

Giuliana Rancic

Discussing Oscar fashions landed E! personality Giuliana Rancic in hot water. While filming a 2015 episode of Fashion Police, Rancic commented that a dreadlocked Zendaya Coleman smelled of "patchouli oil and weed," according to People. Many thought her comments had racists undertones and Coleman herself fired back with a lengthy response calling the remarks "ignorant slurs."

Rancic issued an apology following the incident saying, "Something I said last night did cross the line," Rancic said according to Us Weekly. "I didn't intend to hurt anybody, but I've learned it's not my intent that matters, it's the result."

Rancic blamed it all on a misunderstanding due to poor editing. "On set, I made peace signs and I said boho twice. It was edited. And my words were taken out of context. If I thought this joke could be interpreted another way, I never would have done it. I felt horrible."

In the aftermath, both Kathy Griffin and Kelly Osbourne quit the show, reports People. Rancic also eventually stepped down as host of E! News. She claims "It was 100 percent my decision to leave," she told the site in an interview. "I brought up the idea to leave three years ago, but E! News kept extending me because they wanted me to stay. This has been three years in the making." Since then, she's taken on less roles on the network and has virtually stayed out of the spotlight.