At the start of the 10 p.m. newscast on Saturday, KSN weekend anchor Justin Kraemer was about to complete what he called “a very long day.”
By 10 p.m. on Monday, Kraemer was a former KSN anchor whose accidental on-air expletive had been seen by more than 1 million viewers on YouTube, written about on national websites such as the Huffington Post and joked about on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Kraemer, an on-air reporter and fill-in anchor at KSN since 2008, could be heard at the end of KSN’s Saturday-night newscast muttering to his co-anchors, “Let’s get the (expletive) out of here.” The show had come to an end, the cameras had already cut away from the anchors, who had signed off, and the end-of-broadcast music had played.
On Monday morning, Kraemer said, he was let go from the station – a decision he said he completely understood.
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“I’m embarrassed,” he said. “I did something extraordinarily unprofessional. It’s something that’s drilled into you from the minute you start in this business to always consider the microphones hot.”
By Monday afternoon, Kraemer said, the story of his slipup had gone viral – an experience he describes as “surreal.”
Websites around the country and the world linked to a clip on YouTube posted by a viewer minutes after the broadcast. (YouTube has since taken that video down citing “a copyright claim by KSN-TV,” through other versions of the video are still viewable.) In addition to the Huffington Post, stories appeared on Gawker, the London Daily Mail and the New York Daily News. Even a Croatian website reported the story.
Many compared Kraemer to Ron Burgundy, the fictional newscaster played by Will Ferrell in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which coincidentally is being released in theaters this weekend. In the first “Anchorman,” Ferrell’s character famously uses similar salty language during an on-air sign off.
Kimmel’s reference to the incident came during his Monday-night monologue on his late-night ABC show.
“At the end of their 10 o’clock news on Saturday, anchorman Justin Kraemer said something I think many of us say at the end of our workday,” Kimmel said before airing the clip. “Unfortunately for him, he said it on live television.”
The past couple of days have been hard to describe, said Kraemer, who grew up in New York state and studied at Syracuse University.
“It’s a fascinating process to go viral,” he said. “I’m not sure I would wish it on anybody, but honestly I really don’t know how to put into words how surreal and bizarre the last few days have been.”
Kraemer said that his time at KSN was coming to a close before his firing. Though he didn’t want to discuss where he’s headed or whether he’ll continue in broadcast, he indicated that he’d lined up his next move.
“I don’t anticipate any problems,” he said. “I’m pretty positive I’m going to end up landing on my feet, so I’m encouraged by that.”
Neither the general manager nor the news director at KSN immediately returned calls on Tuesday. The station won’t face any fines, though. A Federal Communications Commission spokesman said he could not comment on specific cases but e-mailed a copy of the FCC consumer guide, which says that “indecent or profane speech that is broadcast between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is not actionable.” Kraemer’s expletive was uttered at 10:26 p.m., according to the on-screen clock on the clip.
KSN removed all information about Kraemer from its website on Monday.
In 2007, KSN also got unwanted attention when then-sports director Jim Kobbe grew frustrated with a technical problem and shouted an expletive on the air, not realizing his microphone was live. Kobbe was suspended for two days but left the station and broadcasting for a job as a human resources business consultant at Spirit Aerosystems three years later.
Kraemer said he realized he had a problem almost immediately after he went off the air on Saturday.
He was walking toward the sink to wash off his on-air makeup when the phone on his desk rang. It was a viewer.
“About two minutes after the broadcast ended, the first phone call came in,” he said. “As soon as I got off the phone with that person, I think every phone within a 10-block radius started ringing.”
First thing on Monday morning, the station informed Kraemer that “it would be best if they moved forward without me.”
Kraemer said he had no issue with his former employer and understood the decision. He said he’ll definitely be leaving Wichita, a town he enjoyed living in, and he’s sorry he’s going out on this note.
But he has a theory as to why his accident has gotten so much attention – and that reason is the subject of the parody in the “Anchorman” movies.
“You want to know why it struck a chord?” he said. “Because TV news has got a lot of issues right now, and one of the biggest issues with TV news is that a strong argument can be made that it’s insincere and fake,” he said. “At least I’m real. If I have an epitaph, that’s what it is.”