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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Erum Salam

Backlash after Fox Sports reporter admits making up coaches’ quotes

A view of the SoFi Stadium for the Chargers-Dolphins game in September. Thompson made the comments on Barstool’s Pardon My Take podcast.
A view of the SoFi Stadium for the Chargers-Dolphins game in September. Thompson made the comments on Barstool’s Pardon My Take podcast. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

The Fox Sports reporter Charissa Thompson is facing a backlash after admitting to lying in her job and making up fake interviews during her sideline reporting.

In an episode of Barstool Sports’s Pardon My Take podcast, Thompson, 41, said she invented quotes from coaches in her NFL sideline reports for fear of losing her job.

“I’ve said this before, and I haven’t been fired for saying it, but I’ll say it again: I would make up the reports sometimes. Because the coach wouldn’t come out at half-time, or it was too late and I didn’t want to screw up the report.”

“I’m just going to make this up,” she said she thought at the time.

Thompson said she did not think the coaches she was reporting on would mind that she fabricated a conversation with them, or correct her.

Some of the quotes Thompson said she invented were to the effect of: “We need to stop hurting ourselves”; “We need to be better on third down”; and, “Do a better job of getting off the field.”

In an Instagram post published on Friday, Thompson reacted to the criticism: “Working in media, I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation. I’m sorry. I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster.

“In the absence of a coach providing any information that could further my report I would use that information that I learned and saw during the first half to create my report … I have nothing but respect for sideline reporters and for the tireless work they put in behind the scenes and on the field. I am only appreciative and humbled to work alongside some of the best in the business and call them some of my best friends.”

Thompson’s colleagues in the industry were quick to condemn her podcast remarks.

Kevin Smith, a board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the US’s oldest organization representing journalists, told the Washington Post: “This is just appallingly bad journalism to engage in, and to brag about it and defend it as harmless is beyond the pale. The SPJ’s ethics code addresses truth, harm, independence and accountability. She gets the trifecta for destroying three ethical tenets with her lying.”

Rachel Baribeau, a host for College Sports on SiriusXM, called Thompson’s revelation “a sad day for females in the industry”.

“So while many of you think it’s no big deal because you don’t see the value of sideline reporters anyhow, please know MOST ALL OF US, including the brown and black ones, [of] which I am one, worked our butts off to get to where we are, and this sets us ALL back!

“Not to mention the fact that I take relationships SO seriously; if I made up something on the sidelines, and a coach got wind of it, and he knew we did not have that conversation or that I flat-out lied, I was done in the industry.”

The ESPN reporter Molly McGrath issued a warning to new journalists. She said: “Young reporters: this is not normal or ethical. Coaches and players trust us with sensitive information, and if they know that you’re dishonest and don’t take your role seriously, you’ve lost all trust and credibility.”

Thompson’s is not the first case of a sports reporter admitting to lying in their reporting.

In an episode of another podcast called Calm Down, the former ESPN star Erin Andrews, in conversation with Thompson, said she also made up quotes.

In 2022, Andrews said: “I’ve done that, too, for a coach that I didn’t want to throw under the bus because he was telling me all the wrong stuff!”

Ronald Reagan, long before he became US president, was a radio sports reporter in Des Moines, Iowa: he lied about being present at games.

According to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Reagan “would call Chicago Cubs games, but rather than being at the game, he would recreate the action from nothing but a slip of paper typed by a telegraph operator who was transcribing plays sent by Morse code.

“On June 7, 1934, with the Cubs and the Cardinals tied 0-0 in the ninth inning, with Billy Jurges at-bat and Dizzy Dean out on the mound, the line went dead. Rather than lose his audience, Reagan improvised a streak of foul balls that lasted nearly 12 minutes until the wire came back.”

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