By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
So, my new favorite guy this week is AJ Clemente. Did you miss his adventures this week? On Sunday, April 21, Clemente made headlines when he dropped several choice on-air swear words on his first day on the job at NBC affiliate KFYR-TV in Bismarck, North Dakota. Both he and his co-anchor Van Tieu later acknowledged that they were put on-air a little earlier than scheduled, which may have explained why Clemente was obliviously muttering profanity as Tieu attempted to introduce him.
I’ll admit, I laughed as I cringed for ol’ AJ when I saw the clip. Others found him and his firing funny, too: the video went viral. I then started to feel badly for AJ about how his professional debut went. Haven’t we all had those moments when your mouth keeps moving and horrible unplanned words are coming out but your brain is somehow locked and frozen inside your skull shouting an internal NO! STOP TALKING NOW! but it’s too late?
Of course you have. We all have. We’ve all been fired too, at one point or another in life. It’s not a good feeling. And aren’t you glad that unlike AJ Clemente, your gaffe and dismissal wasn’t captured on tape and featured on every social and internet media site in existence? And on his very first day. Getting fired can be a punch in the gut anyway. But to get served in the national news? Man.
And AJ did respond initially like most of us would: he admits he crawled in bed and called his mom and dad immediately after he was fired. He had his moment of depression and shame. But here’s what I love about AJ Clemente: he also tweeted, almost cheerfully, “Well, that could not have gone any worse!” right after it all went down, readily acknowledging his mistake. He admits to looking like a moron on TV. But AJ Clemente, as it turned out, was down but not out.
The fresh-faced TV talent didn’t necessarily walk away from the job empty-handed. Though he admits that he is still “the butt of the joke” after being fired from his new position for cursing on-air, Clemente is now focused on moving on. He admits he didn’t want to start his career like this, but was quoted as saying, “But to be right here right now, it’s like, wow. Maybe this is what’s supposed to happen.”
AJ went on to be invited to the Today, Live With Kelly and Michael, and The David Letterman Show, and when Kelly and Michael asked him to work the red carpet for the premiere of Pierce Brosnan’s new movie, he agreed. A little karmic payback, perhaps, for the public pants-down spanking he experienced at the hands of the media this week.
But this is why I like AJ. Speaking with David Letterman, Clemente said, “The next day, you gotta pick yourself up and laugh at yourself and keep going.” At that, Letterman praised Clemente for being brave enough to own up to his mistakes and talk so candidly about his firing.
I, too, gotta admire AJ and his attitude. Sure, mistakes were made. He initially got depressed. He slinked into bed for awhile, needed some emotional support from his parents. The universe clearly had plans to thrust him into a a national spotlight, and he could have disappeared in shame, become angry, or rail against his dismissal. I love that his first tweet was what it was: he owned his mistake and refused to disappear in humiliation.
And so AJ ends up on the set of national talk shows. And he gets it: everything does indeed happen for a reason. The universe is actually carefully ordered to support us and to designed for our growth. There is no such thing as coincidence. This series of events indeed was what was supposed to happen, and they’re taking AJ where he needs to go. Good for him for being able to learn from the situation (yes, AJ, do treat every mic like it’s a hot one), good for him and us that he has a sense of humor and as Letterman pointed out, bravery for speaking so candidly about his widely-viewed screw up.
What can we take away from AJ? Bad and good is mixed up. What seems wrong will take you to the new right thing. Feel what you feel about it. Then, it’s time to be in the moment. It’s over. Shed any shame you have. AJ’s producers started taping early. It wasn’t all his fault. Usually, it’s not all yours to own. Don’t take yourself or the situation too seriously. Use your dilemma to help others. Keep your sense of humor. And don’t worry. It IS supposed to happen this way. It’s gonna make you bigger and better than you were before. Even if it feels wrong or worst at first. Just keep moving.
Godspeed, AJ! I know you want to work at ESPN. Well, they’ve heard of you now. I just hope Bismarck forgives you and has you back even though you’ve evidently shocked and offended the older and more conservative news viewers. It was just a couple of cuss words. Geez. Because it seems to me you might, in spite of yourself, be a good guy to have on the team. And you, dear reader, too – when you can own your mistakes, can learn from them, know what is unfolding was meant to be, can keep a sense of humor and not take yourself so seriously as you move on – you’re a great addition to the group.