Under the endless scrutiny of the public, celebrities and politicians sometimes make ill-informed decisions and ruin their careers in the process.

In the public eye, some people like to play the high risk game of Russian roulette when it comes to their careers.

These celebrities and politicians bandy around off colour remarks about race, they play dirty in prostitution rings, they push sickening views about sex crimes and even pop stars will have a try at having a singing career without actually singing.

But the price of being in the public eye means constantly being under intense scrutiny. And while little slip ups are often forgiven and forgotten, sex scandals, racist rants and downright mean streaks can end a career in seconds.


There's a string of public figures who've had a spectacular single moment that ended it all for them.


This week beloved actor Liam Neeson caused outrage over racist comments that emerged from decades ago.

The actor said he went hunting for a "black b******d" to kill after finding out a close friend had been "brutally" raped.

Liam Neeson on Good Morning America explains comments he made that caused outrage. Photo / AP
Liam Neeson on Good Morning America explains comments he made that caused outrage. Photo / AP

The 66-year-old actor made the admission during a press junket for his new movie Cold Pursuit.

"She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way," Neeson said, to a reporter he later described as a "lady journalist".

"But my immediate reaction was I asked, did she know who it was? No.

"What colour were they? She said it was a black person.


"I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I'd be … approached by somebody.

"I'm ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week — hoping some (he then gestured air quotes with his fingers) "black b******" would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him."

Neeson said in a follow up interview on ABC that he is not racist, and he sought help after feeling the "primal urges", including visiting a priest and power walking for two hours a day.

But the backlash against Neeson has been significant, with a noisy contingent on Twitter now calling for him to be removed from the upcoming Men in Black movie.

Lionsgate has now scrapped the red carpet for the movie premiere to spare the cast and Neeson from what would likely be an awkward appearance.


With a single inflammatory tweet, Roseanne Barr's recently reignited career imploded spectacularly within hours.

Roseanne Barr lost it all after comparing a well respected female advisor to President Obama to
Roseanne Barr lost it all after comparing a well respected female advisor to President Obama to "Planet of the apes". Photo / AP

The conspiracy-theory loving, Trump-voting, outspoken Barr has always been a controversial character, but someone like Barr having a Twitter account was always going to be a difficult path for network executives to be able to tread.

Since the show, which had its original run from 1988, was picked back up in 2018, critics were hopeful about the transgressive writing, where the family would constantly bicker about political issues like Planned Parenthood and guns, while dealing with "real world" problems like credit card debt, family members with disabilities and raising a family on a low income.

But the problem was that Roseanne, the character, was a bully, and Barr, the writer, was an online troll who has a series of strange beliefs.

While the show immediately became a hit, premiering to 27 million viewers, Barr's off-screen outbursts made people nervous, as she posted online about various conspiracies including Pizzagate and Qanon.

The morning she made her career ending tweet, Barr had been tweeting conspiracy-theory based claims about different public figures, including Chelsea Clinton's husband and George Soros, and making allegations that different figures had been Nazis in their youth. All these claims have been widely discredited and proven to be false.

"Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = vj," Barr tweeted, referring to Valerie Jarrett, an advisor to former president Barack Obama.

Barr deleted the tweet and apologised to Jarrett, saying, "I apologise to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks.

"I should have known better. Forgive me — my joke was in poor taste."

However, it was far too late for Barr, and the reaction from her network couldn't have been worse.

"Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show," Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment said.

"There was only one thing to do here and that was the right thing," added Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney, ABC's parent company.

Valerie Jarrett herself said she was "fine" but felt concerned about people who didn't have a circle of support around them in moments like hers. She said she hoped it would be a "teaching moment".

Streaming service Hulu and Viacom went on to pull previous episodes from their channels. This was followed by Roseanne's agency ICM dropping her.

Barr has offered a number of different explanations, including that she was on medication and was "Ambien tweeting".

The manufacturer tweeted that "racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication".

Roseanne has said multiple times the tweets were "political" and she remains confused as to why she'd be considered racist.

Despite her apology she continued to tweet similar conspiracy theory claims following the incident.


Right-wing political commentator, public speaker and publishing mogul Milo Yiannopoulos made a career out of boundary crossing rhetoric, but pushed things too far when he explained his sick views on paedophilia to a podcaster.

Milo Yiannopoulos. Photo / Getty Images
Milo Yiannopoulos. Photo / Getty Images

Yiannopoulos ruined his career when he appeared on a live-streamed interview in 2016 and argued that relationships between young boys and adult men could be beneficial and that the idea of consent is "arbitrary and oppressive". He argued that many 13-year-old boys are mature enough to consent.

He went on to explain that sex between "younger boys" and older men could be a "coming-of-age relationship … in which those older men help those younger boys discover who they are".

Yiannopoulos, himself a victim of child abuse at age 13, gave a confused explanation that he did not perceive assaults carried out on him as a young teenager to be abuse until he was older.

He said to media that he would "not apologise for dealing with his life experiences in the way (he) chooses to, which is through humour and provocation".

"I would like to restate my disgust at adults who abuse minors. I'm horrified by paedophilia."

But Yiannopoulos garnered little sympathy. He quickly had a speaking event cancelled by the American Conservative Political Action Conference, and Simon and Schuster, who were due to publish his book Dangerous cancelled the lucrative deal.

Yiannopoulos then resigned from Breitbart, a far-right website where he had been a senior editor and figurehead.

It was recently reported that the disgraced former publishing mogul is now more than $2 million dollars in debt.


Ashlee Simpson made a strong start when she began her career as a pop star in the early 2000s, her foray into music based on lambasting the career of her big sister Jessica Simpson.

Simpson's career has struggled to revive itself since a humiliating outing in 2004. Photo / Getty Images
Simpson's career has struggled to revive itself since a humiliating outing in 2004. Photo / Getty Images

Ashlee's breakout hit was the histrionic ode to having a famous sibling, Shadow, with the memorable chorus line about "living in the shadow of someone else's dream".

Ashlee, singing ostensibly about her sister and her home life, wails, "she was beautiful, she had everything … it was so hard just being me".

People loved Ashlee's "anti Britney" vibe, as she wore baggy pants with studded belts, but just two months after the release of her successful debut album, a catastrophic appearance on Saturday Night Live revealed she was lip syncing.

It turned Ashlee's narrative of being a rebellious pop punk star into one of her being a manufactured faker, and fans were not quick to forget.

At performances following the scandal her attempts to sing were drowned out by loud booing. Ashlee developed a narrative at the time about a series of complicated illnesses, attributing the lip syncing incident to stress, saying she had at various times collapsed. She also blamed acid reflux.

Ashlee now refers to the lip syncing incident as "something that happened to me". She now appears on reality TV show Ashlee+Evan with her husband Evan, an actor and the son of Diana Ross.


Natalia Kills launched into a lengthy tirade against the contestant for having a similar suit and haircut to her husband. Photo / YouTube
Natalia Kills launched into a lengthy tirade against the contestant for having a similar suit and haircut to her husband. Photo / YouTube

Natalia Kills and Willy Moon were sacked from their roles as judges on NZ version of The X-Factor after launching into a bizarre, abusive tirade against contestant Joe Irvine.

The X Factor judges sat in their judging chairs and departed from the regular "nasty judge" tropes of criticism and accused the singer of being "a doppelganger" who might "stab everyone in the audience".

Ms Kills, who now goes by the surname Keery-Fisher, alleged contestant Joe Irvine, a singer who was wearing a suit and had light brown hair, had stolen the act of her husband, also a singer.

"As an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property I am disgusted at how much you have copied my husband," she said.

The singer appeared visibly shaken after the event. Photo / YouTube
The singer appeared visibly shaken after the event. Photo / YouTube

"From the hair to the suit, do you not have any value or respect for originality?"

"You're a laughing stock. It's cheesy. It's disgusting. Absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to have to even be here sitting in your presence to even have to dignify you with an answer of my opinion."

Mr Irvine then thanked Natalia and told her she was beautiful, before her husband compared him to Norman Bates, the serial killer character from the movie Psycho.

"I feel like you're gonna stitch someone's skin to your face and then kill everyone in the audience," Mr Moon said, making a stabbing motion.

After the show aired, an online petition in support of Mr Irvine gathered 70,000 signatures overnight and Ms Kills and Mr Moon were fired the following day.

The two then fled the country for Los Angeles and started a new band called The Cruel Youth. Kills now goes by a different name, Natalia Keery-Fisher, which she denies is to distance herself from past controversy.

She also works in the back end of pop production, and co-wrote "Kiss it Better" and "Holy Water" for Rihanna and Madonna respectively.

Footage of Irvine following the event shows clear distress in his face. He told the New Zealand Herald the following year that he remained traumatised by the vicious attack.

After being sacked the couple fled New Zealand for Los Angeles. Photo / Getty Images
After being sacked the couple fled New Zealand for Los Angeles. Photo / Getty Images

The X-Factor has never again aired in New Zealand.


The disgraced governor of New York was undone when wiretaps discovered he was linked to a prostitution ring.

Swilda Wall Spitzer and Eliot Spitzer. Photo / Getty Images
Swilda Wall Spitzer and Eliot Spitzer. Photo / Getty Images

Spitzer had worked for two four-year terms as the Attorney-General of New York State, serving from 1999 to 2006, before he was elected as governor of the state.

But Spitzer was caught on federal wiretap discussing meeting a high class escort in Washington DC in March 2008. He'd met her the day before Valentine's Day at the Mayflower Hotel.

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates any sense of right or wrong," he said in a statement.

"Over the course of my public life I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct," he said in the New York Times.

"I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor."

Six years later, he and his wife Silda Spitzer ended their marriage. Mrs Spitzer was paid a whopping $11.12m lump sum for the initial divorce settlement, and an additional $355,933 every year until she dies or remarries.