David Letterman sided with cursing anchorman A.J. Clemente, telling the North Dakota newsman that the station that fired him for cursing on the air should rehire him.
“They should apologize to you,” Letterman said, when the young rookie news anchor appeared on “Late Show” Wednesday night on CBS. “And you should go back because you’re man enough to face the music,” Letterman said. “You’ve been on this show, you’ve been on a lot of shows, you’ve been on the Twitter and on the Facefeed and all of that stuff.”
Letterman was referring to Clemente’s instant fame and current media swing in New York, following his use of profanity on his very first newscast as co-anchor for KFYR-TV, an NBC affiliate in Bismarck, N.D. In fact, the curses Clemente uttered, when he didn’t know the newscast had begun and he was on the air, were the very first words of his anchoring career at the station. He was fired the next morning, but the on-air gaffe nevertheless made him an Internet and Youtube sensation.
“If you want to, you should be offered that job back,” said Letterman, who’s never made a secret of his disdain for broadcast management. He even referred to the station managers who fired Clemente as “goons,” although Clemente himself defended their decision.
“Now,” Letterman said, “would you take it if they said to you, ‘A.J., come on back, we accept our responsibility in this. Everybody makes mistakes. Let’s go forward’?”
“I’ve thought about it,” Clemente said, “but if, you know, ESPN comes knocking …”
“Look, I’m trying to get you the job back in Bismarck,” Letterman said. “Forget about ESPN. That ain’t gonna happen. You’re going back to Bismarck!”
Letterman showed the now-infamous clip of Clemente’s on-air curse, and Clemente explained the circumstances that brought it about. For starters, the curse was an expression of his frustration over an exotic name — the winner of the London Marathon, Tsegaye Kebede of Kenya — that Clemente was going to have to try and pronounce on the air. In addition, KFYR apparently has such a shoestring budget that its news anchors are never really sure when their mikes are live or not.
“I’m telling you, this is nothing,” Letterman said. “I mean, people who have been in the business for decades have had this happen to them, some even knowing they were on camera have done things like this. You, my friend, have nothing to worry about, absolutely nothing!”
Letterman then showed some clips of similar on-air gaffes committed by anchorpeople with a lot more experience than Clemente. See them in the “Letterman” clip, above.