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Top 10 foulest/dumbest/outrageous TV moments

Michael Richards and O.J. Simpson will live in TV infamy.


Some are just stupid, others turn our stomachs. Fox's recent fiasco with O.J. Simpson and Michael Richards' racist diatribe at a comedy club fall in the latter category. But what else comes to mind when ranking some of the boob tube's all-time embarrassments? We'll kick off unclebarky.com's "Making a List" page with a Top 10 ranking of TV's dumbest, dimmest defining moments. Please add your comments. This list was very tough to whittle down.

10. Jessica Simpson -- Adding her own deft twist to the dumb blonde syndrome, Simp got MTV's Newlyweds reality series off to a roaring start in 2003 by asking then husband Nick Lachey, "Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish?" Chicken of the Sea brand tuna apparently can confound some of America's best minds. Boop boop be doop.

9. Howard Cosell -- "Look at that little monkey run!" he exclaimed during a 1983 Monday Night Football game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. The "little monkey" was Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett, who is black. Cosell later retorted that he calls lots of people "little monkey," but the comment dogged him for the rest of his oft-embittered life.

8. Tom Cruise -- His crazed, cuckoo-for-Katie Holmes couch-jumping on a 2005 edition of Oprah led many to perceive him for the first time as three parts nut case and maybe just two parts action star. Cruise's subsequent dustup with Matt Lauer on Today and his fervent embracing of Scientology prompted Paramount Pictures to sack him last August after his third Mission: Impossible film fell short of box office expectations. He married Holmes earlier this month after signing a new, big-money movie deal. So we'll see how this all plays out.

7. Howard Dean -- "Not only are we going to New Hampshire, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York ..." And so on and so forth, punctuated with a banshee-like "Byaaaah!" In other words Dean had finished a deflating third in the Jan. 19, 2004 Iowa caucuses. His nationally televised "Dean scream" killed the presidential candidacy of a man who was deemed to have the Democratic nomination all wrapped up just a month or so earlier.

6. Geraldo Rivera -- His live 1986 special, The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults, turned up a couple of empty liquor bottles after demolition experts doggedly blasted away at the underbelly of the gangster's old haunt, Chicago's decaying Lexington hotel. A sheepish Rivera had promised untold booty, but no. Still, the two-hour bait-and-switcher drew record ratings for a syndicated program, leading to the host's signing of a lucrative contract to keep 'em coming.

5. Al Campanis -- The longtime general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers got tossed after he told Ted Koppel on a 1987 Nightline that blacks "may not have some of the necessities" to either manage or hold a high level front office job in major league baseball. Koppel gave him a chance to reconsider those remarks, but Campanis resisted. An immediate outcry led the Dodgers to quickly part ways with him.

4. Michael Richards -- Heckled at a Los Angeles comedy club earlier this month, he retorted with a stream of racial invective that made even Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic diatribe seem almost tame. Richards, after all, apparently was stone cold sober when he fired off a fusillade of n-words and worse. Seinfeld's heretofore beloved, bumbling "Kramer" since has apologized on Late Show with David Letterman and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's radio show. But will or should anyone ever hire him again? For the near future at least, Richards is radioactive.

3. Fox (not Michael J.) -- No television network has ever come up with a more heinous idea. Fox's only saving grace is that it didn't follow through on two announced O.J. Simpson specials titled If I Did It, Here's How It Happened. Immediate condemnation from all quarters prompted Fox to drop the idea six days later, with poobah Rupert Murdoch taking the highly unusual step of going public with an apologetic statement. "An ill-considered project," he called it. That he signed off on it in the first place is still inexplicable.

2. Dan Rather -- Like it or not, he'll forever be defined by the Sept. 8, 2004 "Memogate" story that essentially wrote off his career at CBS News. Telecast down the homestretch of that year's presidential campaign, the 60 Minutes II piece sharply questioned whether George W. Bush had served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard. An independent panel commissioned by CBS concluded that the story was journalistically unsound and driven by a "myopic zeal" to discredit Bush. Four behind-the-scenes CBS veterans were jettisoned and point man Rather had to leave the CBS Evening News a year earlier than he had hoped. Unfortunately, the veracity of the story now may never be known. The questionably accurate "Swift Boat" veterans successfully eviscerated Democratic nominee John Kerry in fall 2004, but Rather already had way too much baggage to prevail against his many detractors.

1. Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake -- What did we see and when did we see it? Only the most vigilant of viewers caught it the first time during CBS' live telecast of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show on Feb. 1, 2004. But Jackson's blink-and-you-missed-it "costume reveal" quickly escalated into a national debate on the overall morality of broadcast television. Timberlake, her designated bodice ripper, famously called it a "wardrobe malfunction." The lazy, hazy FCC then seized on the opportunity to curb network "indecency" by threatening to make offenders pay huge financial costs. Someone first had to complain, though, and that was no problem for the national Parents Television Council. Its public solicitations resulted in thousands of FCC petitions and, in some cases, heavy fines levied against indignant networks. The ripple from Jackson's bejeweled nipple is still being felt.