Getting fired is never pleasant but thankfully, it’s typically done in private.
This wasn’t the case for James Comey. The former FBI director, who was abruptly fired by President Trump, learned of his dismissal while addressing bureau employees in Los Angeles. In the middle of his speech “television screens in the background began flashing the news,” according to the New York Times. At first, Comey apparently thought the reports were a “fairly funny prank.”
They weren't, of course, which means Comey essentially learned he no longer had a job in the middle of a speech. Firings don’t get much more public than that.
But they can come close. Below, we look at a handful of prominent firings that, instead of being communicated and handled discretely, played out in the public arena.
Like Comey, the former US attorney in Manhattan has the distinction of getting fired by President Trump. And as with Comey, the dismissal came as a surprise.
In November, Trump met with Bharara and asked him to stay on after he assumed the presidency. He agreed. But just a few months later, Bharara, along with 45 other U.S. attorney generals, were abruptly ordered to clear out their offices and resign.
Bharara refused, and was promptly fired.
ESPN and Simmons go way back. For more than a decade, the founder of the (now defunct) sports and culture site Grantland was one of the company's most prominent online talents. Until, suddenly, he wasn’t.
In 2015, ESPN president John Skipper released a statement that started with a matter-of-fact: “I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract.” While the company and Simmons had famously butted heads before, the terse nature of the announcement took many insiders by surprise.
Including Simmons himself. “It was abrupt,” he later said of the dismissal. “I found out on Twitter. That’s probably not how you want to find out after 14 years.”
Unlike Bharara and Simmons, Lenz is not a public figure. Which makes the former creative director’s intensely public firing by AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong all the more egregious.
The now infamous story went down like this: On a conference call with more than 1,000 AOL employees, Armstrong told Lenz, who was in the room with him, to “put that camera down, now.”
After a nearly nonexistent pause, Armstrong continued: “Abel, you’re fired. Out.”
While Armstrong later apologized for the manner in which he fired Lenz, he notably didn’t offer him his job back.
Another case of a normal person who, thanks to a high-profile dismissal, is now best known for getting fired. In 2013, Richards went to a conference for tech developers, where she overheard a male attendee make a crude joke, one she believed illustrated the industry’s widespread gender problem. Per the New York Times, she snapped a photo of the man in question, and tweeted out the picture with the caption “Not cool. Jokes about . . . ‘big’ dongles right behind me.”
The tweet, fueled by outrage, went viral, and ultimately resulted in the man getting fired. Afterwards, he wrote a blog post about losing his job, publishing it on the site Hacker News—whose readers responded by blaming Richards. She received death threats, and her employer, the email marketing company SendGrid, was barraged with cyber attacks. To stop the onslaught, SendGrid publicly laid her off.
“SendGrid threw me under the bus,” she told the Times. “I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned. I felt ashamed. I felt rejected. I felt alone.”
A longtime TV reporter at NBC, Curry was promoted to co-anchor of Today in 2011. Her tenure would be short-lived— a year later, she was ousted from the show. While the network reportedly informed Curry about the decision months before her final episode as co-anchor, that didn’t stop the dismissal from unfolding in a dramatic, public fashion.
Curry’s teary-eyed farewell—in which she does nothing to dispel the reality that she was forcefully pushed out—is moving, real, and incredibly awkward to watch.
Since her exit from Today (and subsequent departure from NBC) much has been written about the underlying dynamics that resulted in Curry’s ill-fated promotion to co-anchor, and the elaborate scheming that led to her removal.