A.J. Clemente's career as a reporter for Bismarck, N.D., station KFYR-TV may be over, but his 15 minutes of fame are just beginning. On Wednesday, April 24, the fired local anchor appeared on the TODAY show with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie to talk about the on-air gaffe that led to his dismissal and launched him unwittingly into the national spotlight.
Less than a minute into his first-ever broadcast for North Dakota NBC affiliate KFYR on April 21, Clemente let slip a couple of choice curse words. (He was unaware he was live on air at the time.) Video of the incident quickly went viral, and Clemente was promptly fired the next day. He's been a good sport about it in public, but watching the clip afterward, he said on the TODAY show, was "gut-wrenching."
"I didn't even know I said it on camera until my news director walked in on the third break," he told Lauer and Guthrie, explaining that the broadcast had gone live 30 seconds earlier than expected. When his co-anchor began her introduction, he was trying (unsuccessfully) to pronounce the names of three runners in the London Marathon, and his frustration got the best of him.
"It's inexcusable, first, to even say those words," he said. "Fireball shot came right out of my mouth."
Many viewers sympathized with his plight and thought he should have been given a second chance, but Clemente has no hard feelings over his termination. "I fully expected that they would fire me," he said. "I even called my news director after and apologized again. They did [what they had to do]. No animosity at all."
Clemente also addressed reports that he had used the word "gay" during the gaffe, explaining that he was simply trying to pronounce the name of London Marathon winner Tsegaye Kebede. "I would never use that slur,'' he said. "I definitely want to make sure people know that."
As for his future? After his TODAY show appearance, Clemente visited Live! With Kelly and Michael, where he was asked by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan if he would cover the red carpet at tonight's premiere of Pierce Brosnan's new film, Love Is All You Need. Getting fired could be the best thing that ever happened to his career.
"I'm looking forward, moving forward,'' Clemente said on the TODAY show. "You got to have a tough skin in this business, and it's good to laugh at yourself."