Reporters Who Ruined Their Careers On Social Media

Vogue editor Anna Wintour once said, "Everyone should be sacked at least once in their career because perfection doesn't exist." She offered the provocative advice in an interview for Alistair Campbell's book "Winners And How They Succeed" (via E! Online), explaining that getting fired from a job is an important "reality of life." That may be true, and losing a gig happens for many reasons. In the modern era, though, one of the more high-profile reasons for firing is social media backlash, and that's particularly a reality for extremely online figures such as reporters.

We know, we know; "cancel culture" isn't a thing. Roxane Gay prefers to call it "consequence culture" (a term she coined in Mother Jones), pointing out that for the most part, people being "canceled" often deserve to face consequences for the things they have actually said and done. Podcaster Michael Hobbes takes it a step further, pointing out that the term as it's often used — in response to so-called "woke mobs" — fails to really capture what's going on. "We constantly hear that 'cancel culture is a problem for the left' but that's simply not true," he tweeted. "First of all, right-wingers have their ways of canceling too. Second, there's no evidence that this is a 'culture.'"

Either way, many reporters who have hit social media-inflicted bumps in the road of their careers have gone on to other media positions, so read on for times when reporters said things online they shouldn't have and actually faced consequences.

A reporter says her 'conservative views' got her fired

Texan reporter Scarlett Fakhar posted a lengthy note on Facebook after Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, writing that she was happy he'd won because President Obama "made the entire country hate one other," via the Dallas Morning News. She also claimed that the "number of African Americans killed one another far outweighs the number of them being killed by whites," though it is unclear how the two statements were related.

When she received backlash for the post, she then posted and deleted an apology for having made her private views public. "It was wholly inappropriate, as a journalist, to do that," she admitted.

Fakhar was later let go by her TV station, and she claimed that it was her "conservative views" that led to her firing. Her statement about Black-on-Black crime, she said, was nothing more than a difference in "political philosophy." Further elaborating, she wrote, "I never have been or never will be racist." The New York Post reported that she was specifically upset about an article in the Houston Chronicle that she said made her post into "a race issue," even though The Houston Chronicle article she was reacting to simply mentioned what she herself had written in her post.

Fakhar now gives real estate investment advice, per her verified Facebook, where she says that her new career "truly brings me SO much joy!"

Matthew Keys shared bad Boston bombing info

When he ran into Twitter trouble, Reuters reporter Matthew Keys was already in hot water. He was embroiled in a legal situation, having been indicted on charges that he had passed along important passwords for his former employer to hackers from Anonymous. The Huffington Post reported that Keys had allegedly told the hackers, "go f**k some s**t up."

Keys also had a publicly difficult relationship with social media, having told AdWeek (via The Drum) that he was planning on taking a break from Twitter. However, he was again a regular user when he turned his Twitter account into a firehose of incorrect information in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, sharing numerous tips and rumors which later turned out to be false (via The Awl). The Atlantic reported that Keys was fired by Reuters due to his online conduct. He told Politico that he felt Reuters was just using his Boston bombing "coverage" as an excuse, suspecting that they wanted to fire him due to his indictment. "To Reuters' credit, they did not mention the indictment during the phone call," he said. "Now, one has to wonder if the two are connected ... I assume they were looking for an out."

He was ultimately convicted in the hacking case and sentenced to two years in prison (via Wired). In 2021, the Justice Department sentenced him to six more months in jail for a similar crime, having deleted the YouTube account for his new employer, yet another media company.

Addison Rae's UFC reporting job didn't last long

TikTok star Addison Rae rose to fame not long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and when restrictions loosened up in 2021, she revealed herself to be a fan of the UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship. Rae went massively viral in July 2021 (and faced significant blowback from her fans) for her behavior at a UFC event because she was captured on video excitedly introducing herself to ex-President Donald Trump at a fight. She later told the Los Angeles Times, "I consider myself a friendly person, and so introducing myself does not mean I stand behind anything that any respective person condones."

However, that wasn't Rae's first UFC-related controversy. The week before her run-in with Trump, the "Obsessed" singer tweeted about the fact that she'd only gone to college for three months but was able to get a job as a UFC reporter anyway. She shared a selfie of herself standing in front of a UFC-branded step-and-repeat. The backlash on Twitter was swift, with fans complaining that she stole the job from someone who actually had a passion for it. "I went to Journalism school for two years and interned (unpaid) for another 1.5 years after that. Never got hired on and had to switch careers," one person replied.

The next day, Rae tweeted an update about her new career: "nvm y'all got me fired." Ah, well ... back to copying dances from creators of color!

A social media feud with Chrissy Teigen led to a career switch

Back in 2016, Us Weekly's Jon Warech interviewed controversy magnet Chrissy Teigen, asking her questions about her newborn child with husband John Legend. The resulting headline read, "Chrissy Teigen: We're Hiring a Night Nurse for Baby." Teigen didn't like that, and, as she often does, she called Warech out on Twitter, even though he hadn't written the article or the headline. Per the Daily News, Teigen wrote that she was specifically upset that the outlet had used "the last of many questions as your headline because you know it will make me look like a poor, uncaring mother and get people talking. Awesome. Doesn't go unnoticed." Warech responded by screencapping the Word document with quotes he'd sent to his editor.

That move lost him his job, as he'd shared work product online. "I felt the need to defend the story and my reporting style," Warech explained to the Daily News. "We didn't use the last of 'many questions' and none of the three questions were 'extremely personal' [as Teigen had claimed in their conversation]. I guess it wasn't my place to do so."

Years later, Warech told Page Six that the situation led to a career change, one he's grateful for. "Afterwards I started volunteering for the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach and the March of the Living and I found my calling. Now I'm truly in a dream job — so thanks Chrissy," he said.

His exposé of Carson King got Aaron Calvin exposed

This one's a real "cancellation" turducken, so buckle up! In 2019, Carson King held up a sign in the background of an ESPN broadcast, asking for beer money via Venmo donations. When money rolled in, he announced that he would donate proceeds to charity; the Des Moines Register reported that King's fundraiser ultimately raised almost $3 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. When the story went viral, Busch Light made cans with Carson's face on them.

Reporter Aaron Calvin sat down with the viral beer fan for a longer profile, mentioning late in the piece that King had made racist jokes on Twitter in the past. "That's not something that I'm proud of at all," King replied when confronted with what he'd said. Before the article was posted, King held a pre-emptive press conference confessing to the jokes.

Social media users then looked into the reporter who'd written the story, finding that Calvin had made insensitive jokes online himself. The Washington Post reported that he'd joked about gay marriage, tweeting that he was "totally going to marry a horse." Calvin told Buzzfeed, "This event basically set my entire life on fire." He lost his job at the Des Moines Register. "Instead of attempting to understand the nuances of a man's character within the complexities of the world, readers reacted by punishing the writer who made those complications visible," he later wrote in a Columbia Journalism Review piece. 

Calvin continued working as a journalist.

Terry Frei was fired over a racist NASCAR tweet

In 2017, the Indianapolis 500 was won by a Japanese driver named Takuma Sato. "Unbelievable feeling. It was a tough, tough race," Sato said afterward (via The Guardian). "Hopefully the crowd enjoyed it. I can't thank enough for everyone's support." He did not, in fact, have the support of Terry Frei, a reporter for The Denver Post. In a since-deleted tweet, Frei wrote (via the New York Post, "Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend." Understandably, the tweet caused a significant backlash. "What is the point of tainting that breakthrough with this ugly racism?" asked a writer for Reappropriate.

Frei tweeted a since-deleted apology. "I fouled up," he began. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said what I said when I said it." Nevertheless, Frei went on, trying to clear the air in a paragraphs-long explanation about his father's history in World War II, which he said colors his emotional response during Memorial Day. The wordy mea culpa didn't go over well, and it wasn't enough to save his job. The Denver Post let him go, and they released a statement saying, "The tweet doesn't represent what we believe nor what we stand for. We hope you will accept our profound apologies."

Frei was still working as a sports journalist as of 2021. According to his website, some of his work has been published by Mile High Sports Magazine. 

Wendy Bell made racist comments after a mass shooting

Pittsburgh reporter Wendy Bell made racist comments after a mass shooting in nearby Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, left six dead. In a since-deleted Facebook post (via The Root), Bell tried to guess what the killers were like, rattling off a list of stereotypes masquerading as journalism. "​​They are young black men, likely teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs," she wrote. "They know the police. They've been arrested. They've made the circuit and nothing has scared them enough. Now they are lost."

WTAE, the network where she worked, issued a statement apologizing on her behalf. "Wendy has since apologized for what she wrote and acknowledged it was insensitive. Wendy is sorry for the words she chose, and so are we," they wrote. However, they fired her shortly thereafter, and she told the Associated Press (via USA Today), "It makes me sick." Bell later filed a lawsuit against the station, alleging (via CBS News) that she was fired "because of her race." The parties later reached an undisclosed settlement.

Bell became a local radio host, a job she also lost after posting a video to Facebook saying (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), "My easy solution for the park rangers and hopefully snipers who are going to be watching for [vandals] is to shoot on sight." She now spends her time making stolen-election and COVID-conspiracy videos on Facebook in addition to tweeting about triggering "the left."

Catherine Deveny made inappropriate jokes about Bindi Irwin

Catherine Deveny, an Australian columnist and comedian, tweeted about the Logie Awards in 2010, firing off jokes about the Aussie television awards show. Deveny had previously written for the show itself (via IMDb), but that year she just made jokes on social media. Though she wrote about a number of other celebrities too, it was her joke about a then-11-year-old Bindi Irwin that drew swift backlash. "I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid," she wrote (via CBC) about the beloved eldest child of late "Crocodile Hunter" star Steve Irwin.

Deveny defended herself after the controversy, saying (via the Sydney Morning Herald) that her jokes were "taken out of context." She insisted, "This was a ludicrous remark that was as ridiculous as me saying I hope the dog that Molly Meldrum brought with him got drunk," a joke that probably makes sense to Australians who know who Molly Meldrum is. (He's a music critic, for the record). However, she lost her column at The Age because the paper did not agree with her defense. "We are appreciative of the columns Catherine has written for The Age over several years but the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age," said Editor-in-Chief Paul Ramadge.

Since her firing for her social media posts, Deveny has gone on to write regularly for The Guardian, ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and Insight, among others.

Lisa Benson's white colleagues were offended

Kansas City reporter Lisa Benson's trouble with her network, KSHB, began in 2017 when she filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination (via The Kansas City Star). Benson felt that she was passed over for promotions, noting that she was frequently assigned to stories in more "urban" areas of the city and was even made to interview a KKK member. "The positions are consistently rewarded to white employees with far less experience than plaintiff," her suit claimed.

The following year, Benson shared a viral article in The Guardian to her private Facebook; the article, called "How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour," was about the ways in which women of color are often silenced by the weaponized discomfort of their white colleagues. The article's author, Ruby Hamad, reported the news on Twitter (via Pajiba) that the article's thesis was playing out in real time because Benson had been fired when her white colleagues complained about her social media posts. Hamad shared that the reason Benson was given for her termination was that she had "made broad, unfair characterizations of white women as a group based on their race and gender."

Benson later won lost wages and punitive damages in the resulting lawsuit (via KCUR), and she wrote a book about her experience. "Forcing my former news managers... to listen to my voice and respond to my allegations against them was empowering," she told In Kansas City.

Nazi-sympathizing tweets got a BBC reporter fired

In 2014, as the conflict between Israel and Palestine heated up again, journalist Tala Halawa tweeted a message that claimed Israelis were acting like Nazis and also included the hashtag "#HitlerWasRight." Despite the posts being on a public Twitter account, Halawa was hired by the BBC a few years later, per The Jerusalem Post. When the obviously offensive tweets resurfaced in 2021, the BBC told The Spectator, "These tweets predate the individual's employment with the BBC but we are nevertheless taking this very seriously and are investigating." 

Halawa deleted her social media accounts amid the backlash, per Insider, though they have since been reactivated. "We are clear there is no place for views like this to exist within the BBC and we deplore racism and antisemitism of any kind," the BBC told the outlet.

The BBC let Halawa go, and she released a lengthy statement online explaining what had happened and why she tweeted what she had. "The offensive and ignorant words I posted at the time do not reflect my political views then as much as they do not today," she wrote. Halawa then went on to claim that the backlash to the post was the result of "bad-faith intimidation of reporters" and that her firing was an attempt to "maintain institutional pro-Israel bias." At the time of this writing, Halawa has not tweeted since the controversy.

Teen Vogue editor Alexi McCammond had to resign

Axios reporter Alexi McCammond was announced as a new editor at Teen Vogue in early 2021. "Still pinching myself!" she tweeted along with the news. Vogue editor Anna Wintour said in a statement, "Alexi has the powerful curiosity and confidence that embodies the best of our next generation of leaders." However, almost immediately, McCammond's previously-deleted racist tweets from when she was a teenager caused a firestorm of controversy upon the announcement of her new role. Writer Diana Tsui shared a carousel of screenshots of McCammond's tweets, which included jokes about Asian people, on Instagram

McCammond apologized on Twitter in a since-deleted statement (via CNN), saying, "I am so sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language. At any point in my life, it's totally unacceptable. I hear that you're hurt, angry, confused, and skeptical of how we move on from here. I probably would be too."

Her soon-to-be staffers at Teen Vogue were, indeed, skeptical of how they'd be able to move on. Teen Vogue writer Lucy Diavolo shared an open letter on Twitter about the situation, writing that the staff had internally sent a letter to Teen Vogue parent company Condé Nast about McCammond's hiring. When it was clear the furor wasn't going away, McCammond resigned, sharing, "My past tweets have overshadowed the work I've done."

Per Deadline, McCammond then returned to her job as a politics reporter for Axios.

An ESPN analyst's tweets cost her a job

ESPN hired betting analyst Kelly Stewart to report on sports betting in May 2021. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Stewart would be an analyst on ESPN2's show "Daily Wager," as well as making appearances on "SportsCenter" and other ESPN shows as necessary. "I'm beyond excited for the future," Stewart told the outlet, which she had worked for in the past in a similar capacity.

As news spread of her hiring, however, people on Twitter pointed to past homophobic tweets Stewart had made online. A user named Logan Matthews uploaded screenshots of numerous since-deleted messages that contained multiple anti-gay slurs; Stewart was apparently quite fond of a particular one beginning with "f," which she aimed at everyone from her followers to football player Vernon Davis. A month later, shortly before Stewart was due to begin her on-air job, Front Office Sports broke the news that ESPN had let her go.

She released a statement on Twitter saying that she wished the company had stood behind her, casting her choice of language as poor but insisting that the emotion behind the tweets was due to the "vile, threatening, and misogynistic attacks" she was responding to. Though she lost her job at ESPN over her affinity for slurs, Stewart was snapped up by the bastions of respectability over at Barstool Sports.

Quinn Norton says her 'doppelgänger' was fired

In February 2018, The New York Times put out a statement reading, "We're delighted to announce that Quinn Norton has joined The New York Times editorial board as our lead opinion writer on the power, culture and consequences of technology." Mere hours later, Norton faced those very consequences, as her provocative tweets were uncovered by users on Twitter and she was fired from her just-announced new position. Slate reported on some of the tweets that people were upset about, including one where she admitted, "I have been friends with various neo-nazis in my time, yes." She also used an anti-gay slur, as well as the n-word, which she defended by writing, "When I speak to communities, I used their language to do it."

Wired writer Steven Levy, a former colleague, defended Norton online. He wrote, "I know @quinnnorton and she's no racist or Nazi sympathizer. She's a smart edgy writer whose tweets are too easily taken out of context." Wired noted a past Medium post where Norton indicated that she believes talking with racists is an important part of changing minds, and in an essay for The Atlantic after her firing, she described the vilified version of herself as a "doppelgänger," not her actual self. She also defended her friendship with Andrew Auernheimer, an avowed neo-Nazi who helps run The Daily Stormer, by saying, "In my pacifism, I can't reject a friendship, even when a friend has taken such a horrifying path."

Lauren Wolfe lost her job at The New York Times

In the days leading up to Joe Biden's inauguration as president, Lauren Wolfe, a freelance editor at The New York Times, tweeted "I have chills" as she watched his plane touch down in D.C. for his inauguration. Accusations of impartiality went viral, and Wolfe lost her job at The New York Times over the controversy. The Advocate reported that Wolfe tweeted about having received death threats, and the outlet noted a tweet from a friend of hers reading in part, "the NYT was pressured by fascists, Trumpkins and hypocrites on the right." In a statement to The Wrap, a New York Times spokesperson claimed, "For privacy reasons we don't get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn't end someone's employment over a single tweet."

In the firestorm that followed her firing, Wolfe was particularly upset with the behavior of a reporter from the New York Post who claimed that she was unavailable for comment even though she said she'd never been asked to address the issue by the outlet. She tweeted, "Are you proud of stalking me today? ... Judging me as a journalist on these terms, while I am being stalked by your photog and getting death treats—you judge ME my work? Shame on you."

Since losing her job with The New York Times, Wolfe has pivoted to Substack, where she runs a newsletter about journalism, aptly named Chills.