Charissa Thompson under fire for admitting she fabricated sideline reports

Media

“I didn’t want to screw up the report, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to make this up.’”

Charissa Thompson, before a game between the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in New Orleans. Tyler Kaufman / AP

Charissa Thompson of Fox Sports and Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” garnered criticism Thursday when a clip went viral in which she admitted to inventing quotes from coaches while working as a sideline reporter.

“I’ve said this before, so I haven’t been fired for saying it, but I’ll say it again. I would make up the report sometimes,” Thompson said in a recent interview on “Pardon My Take,” “because, A, the coach wouldn’t come out at halftime, or it was too late and . . . I didn’t want to screw up the report, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to make this up.’”

Thompson, 41, added that she assumed that “no coach is going to get mad” if she misled viewers into thinking they had simply voiced some well-worn clichés, such as, “Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves, we need to be better on third down, we need to stop turning the ball over and do a better job of getting off the field.”

“Like, they’re not going to correct me on that,” she continued. “So I’m like, ‘It’s fine, I’ll just make up the report.’”

Among the sports media members responding to Thompson’s comments Thursday was ESPN and ABC’s Molly McGrath, a college football sideline reporter who wrote on X, “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.”

CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, “This is absolutely not ok, not the norm and upsetting on so many levels. I take my job very seriously, I hold myself accountable for all I say, I build trust with coaches and never make something up. I know my fellow reporters do the same.”

Kevin Z. Smith, a board member of the Society of Professional Journalists who helped shape that organization’s ethics code, said of Thompson’s admission, “This is just appallingly bad journalism to engage in, and to brag about it and defend it as harmless is beyond the pale.”

“SPJ’s ethics code addresses truth, harm, independence and accountability,” Smith added via email Thursday evening. “She gets the trifecta for destroying three ethical tenets with her lying.”

Thompson previously discussed making up quotes from coaches during a January 2022 episode of a podcast she co-hosts with former sideline reporter Erin Andrews.

Recalling her time covering the 2008 Detroit Lions, who went 0-16, Thompson said of then-head coach Rod Marinelli, “I was like, ‘Oh, coach, what adjustments are you going to make at halftime?’ He goes, ‘That’s a great perfume you’re wearing.’ I was like, ‘Oh, [expletive], this isn’t going to work.’ I’m not kidding, I made up a report.”

“I’ve done that, too,” Andrews responded at the time. “For a coach that I didn’t want to throw under the bus because he was telling me all the wrong stuff!”

“You’re not going to say anything that’s going to put them in a bad spot,” Thompson said.

Representatives for “Thursday Night Football” did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thompson and clarification on whether she would use their platform to address the backlash. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) As the hour-plus pregame show she hosts unfolded, Thompson never mentioned the furor over her remarks to “Pardon My Take.”

Laura Okmin, Thompson’s colleague at Fox Sports, contributed to the argument that Thompson had committed a grave ethical lapse.

“THE privilege of a sideline role is being the 1 person in the entire world who has the opportunity to ask coaches what’s happening in that moment,” Okmin, described by Fox Sports as the third-longest tenured sideline reporter in the NFL, wrote Thursday afternoon on X. “I can’t express the amount of time it takes to build that trust. Devastated w/the texts I’m getting asking if this is ok. No. Never.”

Lindsay Rhodes, a former sideline reporter and NFL Network host, addressed a question on X about what Thompson was supposed to do if a coach refused to provide comment or did not return to the field before a telecast threw it to her for a report.

“She tells the producer, ‘he didn’t stop’ and they don’t go to the sideline reporter for an update she doesn’t have,” Rhodes wrote. “OR, she tells the audience that in her report. Or she observes things herself & reports them without misleading anyone into thinking it came from someone it didn’t.”


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