His self-described “rookie mistake” of swearing on the air got him fired, but WVU graduate A.J. Clemente’s nightmarish debut on a North Dakota television station actually gained him more exposure on, well, television.
Clemente muttered “f***ing s**t” as the newscast opened Sunday, his first night as a co-anchor on Bismark, N.D., station KFYR. Fired the next day after video of the mishap went viral, Clemente appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” in New York City Wednesday. Chatting live on the set with hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Gutherie, he was given a chance to tell the whole story.
“It’s inexcusable first, to even say those words,” Clemente said. “I was looking down and going over my script. Van, my co-anchor, was looking at the camera and saw the red light come on. We actually came on 30-seconds early.”
He said there was no communication with the control room, no countdown, no stage director, and neither he nor his co-anchor had their IFB ear pieces to get a heads-up their mics were hot.
Clemente said he didn’t even realize what he said until the third segment of the newscast when his news director came on the set and told him what had happened. Clemente recalled watching the video the first few times.
“When I first saw the clip, it was gut-wrenching,” said Clemente. “I didn’t even know I said it on camera until my news director walked in on the third break.”
There was also a spot in the clip where it appeared Clemente made a reference to “gays”. He wanted to make it clear he was not making a slur at all, but was actually trying to pronounce the name of the winner of the London Marathon in his script.
Clemente said he knew Sunday night his new career in Bismark was going to be brief.
“I fully expected they would fire me,” Clemente told NBC. “I even called my news director afterward and apologized. No animosity at all.”
Clemente is ready to put the matter behind him as soon as he can. The exposure he has received since the incident has resulted in a lot of ridicule, but also a lot of compassion.
“I’m looking forward and moving forward,” he said. “You’ve got to have a thick skin in this business. It’s good to laugh at yourself.”
Lauer and Gutherie let him read the script taking the “Today Show” into the break out of his segment. Control room sound engineeers, had some fun with him by hitting the “bleep” button several times as he finished.