Los Angeles, November 18, 2023
Charissa Thompson, a prominent figure on Fox Sports and the host of “Thursday Night Football,” shocked the sports journalism community this week by admitting that she fabricated quotes from coaches during her time as a sideline reporter. The revelation, made on the “Pardon My Take” podcast, sparked criticism from fellow journalists, including Tracy Wolfson of CBS Sports and Molly McGrath of ESPN/ABC.
Thompson candidly confessed on the podcast, stating, “I would make up the report sometimes because 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.'” She casually described using cliches as substitutes for real quotes, believing coaches wouldn’t dispute general statements like, “We need to be better on third down.”
The fallout was swift, with peers and industry professionals expressing disappointment in Thompson’s approach. Tracy Wolfson took to social media, stating, “This is absolutely not okay, not the norm, and upsetting on so many levels.” Molly McGrath warned young reporters about the ethical implications of such actions.
Thompson attempted to address the controversy on Instagram, asserting that she “chose the wrong words to describe the situation” and expressing regret. She clarified that when coaches were unavailable, she relied on her observations of the game to provide information to viewers. Thompson emphasized that she never attributed made-up statements to specific players or coaches.
The scandal has prompted criticism from Kevin Z. Smith, a board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, who called Thompson’s actions “appallingly bad journalism” and condemned her defense of it as harmless.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Thompson has discussed her on-air invention of coach quotes. In a 2022 podcast with Fox Sports colleague Erin Andrews, she shared a specific example involving a Detroit Lions coach. Andrews admitted to a similar practice, suggesting that it was a way to avoid putting the coach “under the bus.”
Despite the backlash, Thompson currently holds hosting responsibilities for “FOX NFL Kickoff,” the pregame show for Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football,” and FS1’s “NFL Films Presents.” It remains to be seen how this controversy will impact her career and reputation within the sports broadcasting industry.