Recording a video is a good way to encapsulate a moment so you can keep it for as long as you like. However, most of the people involved in these videos wish that those moments never happened, and would now go away. These are people who did something stupid, or illegal, and were unfortunate enough to have it caught on film. The videos went public, and it completely ruined their lives.
One question we have: do all these people deserve their fate? Or is this just evidence of the rise of a moralistic police state where a few minutes of ill-conceived words and actions, while sometimes not even illegal, can brand someone for life as a pariah?
Warning: In general, these videos contain some very strong language, so grab your headphones or make sure you’re not watching them at work or in public.
10. Mike Rice, Jr.
In 2010, Mike Rice, Jr. was hired to be the coach of the men’s basketball team at Rutgers University in New Jersey. His base salary was $300,000, but he would get a $25,000 raise every year, and his contract was loaded with perks and incentives, like $100,000 for finishing the season as the coach. All in all, it could be considered a dream job to a lot of people who love basketball.
Things started to fall apart for Rice in December 2012, when one of his former assistant coaches gave the athletics director of Rutgers, Tim Pernetti, team practice footage that showed Rice throwing basketballs at the heads and bodies of the players. Other times he shoves them. He also screams and berates them, at times using homophobic slurs. Rice was suspended for three days, but the school didn’t publicly specify why. He finished out the season with the team, entitling him to the $100,000 bonus, even though Rutgers had a losing record.
On April 2, 2013, after the season was over, the ESPN show Outside the Lines aired the practice footage and interviewed the former assistant coach. The response was immediate and people called for Rice to be fired. He was fired the next day and Pernetti resigned three days later.
Three years after the video came out, Rice was hired as a high school coach in New Jersey, and said that the firing was a tough thing to get over. On the bright side, at least he didn’t have to coach at… ugh… Rutgers anymore.
9. 14-Year-Old Gainesville Teenagers
In February 2012, two 14-year-old Caucasian girls living in Gainesville, Florida, recorded a YouTube video that was a response to the messages they received regarding a video they recorded earlier about their thoughts on African-Americans and food stamps. As you can probably guess, their original video was completely racist, and instead of using the second video to apologize for the ugly things they said, they decided to make things much, much worse for themselves. In the nearly 14 minute long video, the two girls made fun of African-American stereotypes and used the N-word so many times that even Quentin Tarantino would have thought it was excessive.
Unlike the girls’ first video, this one went viral after it was posted on the website World Star Hip Hop, and within days it was viewed several hundred thousand times. The girls also got several death threats and things got so bad that eight police officers had to be sent to their school to make sure they weren’t attacked. Both ultimately had to be withdrawn from school to be home schooled. After the incident, one of the girls and her mother wrote a public apology where they denounced racism.
YouTube took the original video down, but copies of it are still available. The girls were lucky because they were never identified publicly, so maybe in the future they will be able to find employment.
8. George Holliday
In every other video on this list, the person whose life is ruined appears in the video, but the story of George Holliday is a bit different.
On March 3, 1991, at about 1:50 am, Holliday, who was a plumber living in Los Angeles, awoke to the sound of police sirens. He stepped out onto his balcony with his brand new Sony camcorder and recorded four officers, three white and one Hispanic, kicking and beating an African-American man with batons on the side of the road while 15 other officers watched. Holliday submitted the video to a news station and it ran on the news the next day, but not as the lead story. However, the story was then picked up by other news networks, notably CNN, and the video went viral before viral video was even a term. It also helped launch the era of “citizen journalism.”
Of course, the man being beaten in the video was Rodney King. The four police officers who did the beating were indicted, but acquitted, and this led to the LA riots, which resulted in 54 deaths, 2,383 injuries, and caused over $1 billion in damage.
For recording one of the most important home videos of all time, Holliday was paid $500 at most from news outlets and a few thousand dollars from licensing it out to filmmakers. However, that was probably the least of Holliday’s problems. The video made him a bit of a celebrity and reporters flooded him with interview requests. It got to be too much for his first wife and she left him. His second marriage didn’t last long either. He also got death threats, some of them accusing him of causing the riots. Due to all the attention, he chose to make his personal and business phone numbers unlisted. Instead, he just gets referral work. He says that he isn’t afraid of someone finding out who he is, he just doesn’t want to be bothered.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, Holliday was an answer in Trivial Pursuit, but they incorrectly spelled his name “Halliday” instead of “Holliday.” Of course, maybe he’s alright with that, since he could conceivably insist the game is referring to someone else.
7. Benjamin Golden
Around 8:00 pm on October 30, 2015, 23-year-old Uber driver Edward Caban picked up 32-year-old Taco Bell marketing manager Benjamin Golden in Newport Beach, California. Golden was visibly drunk and couldn’t even do up his seatbelt. Caban asked him for an address or directions, but Golden kept falling asleep. That’s when Caban changed the direction of his dashcam to record Golden in the backseat.
After a few minutes, Caban pulled into a parking lot and told Golden to get out. Golden took exception to this and started to punch and smack Caban in the head and then pulled his hair. He only stopped after Caban maced him in the face. After the attack, Caban called the police and Golden was arrested.
After the incident, Caban shared the video with the police and online. Now, Taco Bell doesn’t put much money into their food, but we are pretty sure they don’t chintz out on paying their executives, and there was just something about an executive at a major company pounding on an Uber driver that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, so the video went viral. This led to Golden being fired just days later.
In November, Caban sued Golden for a little more than $25,000. In turn, Golden filed a countersuit against Caban because the video was recorded without his consent. He also said that he felt afraid because he was drunk and Caban was dropping him off in an unfamiliar place, and then the next thing he knew, he was being pepper sprayed. Finally, Golden’s lawsuit claimed that the video, which was viewed over 2 million times, led to media attention that caused Golden to lose his job and he wasn’t able to find new employment. It also caused him severe emotional distress, humiliation, and anxiety. For all that, Golden wanted $5 million. That’s right: the 32-year-old man who got too drunk and then assaulted a guy who was just trying to do his job felt that he’s owed more money than most of us will ever earn in a lifetime.
Their suits have yet to go to court, but in January 2016, Golden pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery on a taxi driver and was sentenced to 60 days in prison.
6. Jennifer Box
On November 8, 2014, a four-minute long video called “Drunk Girl in Public (Social Experiment)” was uploaded to YouTube. In the video, a young woman named Jennifer pretends to be stumbling drunk around Hollywood Boulevard to see if people will help her get home. Instead, she encounters four different men, who all try very hard to take her home or lure her into their vehicle. When they do, she suddenly “sobers up” and escapes.
Within a day, the video had four million views, but people immediately questioned its authenticity. A week later, it was revealed that the video was staged, and arranged by an online marketer named Stephen Zhang. The woman was an actress named Jennifer Box, who was paid $160 to appear in the video. The men, who were also acting, weren’t paid for their roles (so they got to look like creeps for free… lucky them!) and said they were tricked and weren’t told the true nature of the video. They were told it was a hidden camera comedy sketch and Box apologized for her role in the video.
The problem was that when people thought that the video was real, many of them thought the men were really sleaze balls at best and rapists at worst. This led to the men being attacked online and threatened with death.
However, things didn’t exactly get much better when people found out that it was fake. Many people felt that the actors involved in the video were either exploiting or making fun of rape. This led to Box getting death threats and random people screaming at her on the street. In the SyFy show The Internet Ruined My Life, she talked a bit about the impact it had on her. She started to chain smoke because of the stress and was eventually hospitalized because of a collapsed lung. Unfortunately, the video also ruined her acting and modeling career and she moved back to her hometown in Texas.
However, the mastermind of the video, Stephen Zhang, escaped a lot of media scrutiny and online backlash. Before the original video was taken down, it had been viewed over 11 million times in less than a month.
5. Adam Smith
In the summer of 2012, Adam Smith was the chief financial officer at a medical equipment manufacturer in Tucson, Arizona. He was making $200,000 a year and had a million dollars in stock options. And then he did something really, really stupid.
During his lunch break from work, for some reason Smith was compelled to go through a Chick-fil-A drive-thru and get a cup of free water. While recording himself, Smith berated the drive-thru worker for comments that the chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A made about gay marriage months earlier in June. The female employee, who probably didn’t make more than minimum wage, said that she wasn’t comfortable with being videotaped, but remained ceaselessly polite while Smith chastised her for working at a hateful place. She even tells Smith to have a good day and as Smith drives away, he says to himself, “I will. I just did something really good. I feel purposeful.” He was so proud of himself that he uploaded the video during the remainder of his lunch, and then he went back to work; presumably he skipped eating food because he was so full on his own self-satisfaction and the cup of water that he got from Chick-fil-A.
When he walked in the door at his work, presumably looking as smug as Martin Shkreli, the receptionist looked at him wide-eyed and said “Adam, what did you do?” He was fired that day. Gone was the $200,000 a year salary and the million dollars in stock options.
Smith apologized to the Chick-fil-A employee in a video, and she forgave him, but the damage was already done. After the video was posted, Smith couldn’t find another job. He and his family, which includes four children, two which are adopted and have special needs, were forced to sell their home and move into an RV.
When Smith did get another job, it only lasted for two weeks before he was fired again. He said that he has a hard time getting hired again, even by people who agree with his stance, because they’re worried he’ll do something similar in the future. When he gave an interview in 2015, he said his wife was the breadwinner and the family was on food stamps.
Smith says he doesn’t regret the stance he took, but he regrets the way he talked to the employee.
4. Jason Russell
The non-profit group Invisible Children, Inc. was founded in 2004 by Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole. The group started the non-profit when the trio returned to the United States after spending some time in Africa. When they were in Uganda, they learned of the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony. Kony was a warlord who filled his army with children that were kidnapped or forced to be soldiers. The aim of Invisible Children was to bring attention to the child soldier problem and ultimately the arrest and conviction of Kony.
In March 2012, the group released a 30 minute documentary called Kony 2012 that was directed and prominently featured one of the founders, Jason Russell. The goal of the video was to make Kony famous, which would hopefully lead to his arrest.
Shortly after the video was released, it went viral. Within five days it had been viewed over 100 million times. Invisible Children also received $30 million in donations because of the video.
However, the video and Invisible Children also received a lot of criticism after the video went viral. Some people claimed that it was an example of “slacktivism” and “white savior industrial complex.” Other people pointed out that the film was factually incorrect. For example, it fails to mention that Kony was no longer in power in Uganda, and was in hiding, probably in the Sudan. Finally, other people questioned Invisible Children’s financial integrity and what they planned to do with the donations..
Things got even worse for Russell and the organization two weeks after the video was released. Russell was spotted walking around the streets of San Diego completely naked. Someone videotaped his walk, and it shows Russell acting erratically, talking to himself, hitting the ground, and vandalizing cars. The police were called and Russell was committed to a psychiatric hospital for several weeks. Unfortunately, the video was purchased by TMZ and widely shared online and by the major news networks.
After Russell was released from the hospital in April 2012, he did interviews to promote a second Kony video, and explained his breakdown. He said that he was exhausted, dehydrated, and stressed out from constantly defending Kony 2012. He said that he just snapped and wasn’t in control of his mind and body.
Russell has since stayed out of the public eye. In 2014, the CEO of Invisible Children said that the organization had used up all the money they raised from Kony 2012. He didn’t expect the organization to survive beyond 2015, but at the time of this posting, it is still in operation. Kony has yet to be arrested.
3. Billy Bush
In 2016, Billy Bush probably thought that life was pretty good. After spending years hosting Access Hollywood, in August 2016, he became the co-anchor of the third hour of NBC’s Today. He was also bringing in over $3.5 million a year.
Then on October 7, 2016, The Washington Post published a recording from 2005 featuring Bush and now-President Donald Trump on an Access Hollywood bus. The camera is outside of the bus, but their microphones were on and recorded their conversation. On the bus, they exchanged their opinions on the latest book by Phillip Roth and their thoughts on the movie Being There. No, just kidding. They both used deplorable language to objectify women, and then Trump talked about trying to seduce a married woman and boasted about how he used his fame to sexually assault women while Bush egged him on.
After the video was released, Bush apologized. He also said that it’s no excuse, but he was young and immature back when the video was recorded. However, we should also point out that in 2005, Bush was 34-years-old. And if he was so immature at the age of 34 that he thought that sexually assaulting women is not only acceptable, but funny and cool, then maybe he’s just a genuinely crappy person.
In the end, NBC and Bush reached a settlement. Rumors were that it was anywhere from $9 million to $10 million, but the sum was undisclosed. When the settlement was being negotiated, people on Twitter trolled Bush to donate some of the settlement to women’s rights groups, but he didn’t respond. He’s probably thinking that he might want to hold onto his money, because who knows when he’ll work again.
2. Michael Richards
After Seinfeld went off the air in 1999, it continued to have loyal fans who watched reruns and bought the seasons on DVD. Heck, turn on your TV – there’s probably a rerun on somewhere right now. On the show, Michael Richards found global stardom playing the role of Cosmo Kramer. His physical humor paired with Kramer’s quirkiness and misadventures made Kramer a character that transcended cultural boundaries.
In his post-Seinfeld career, Richards returned to stand up and was probably doing it for the love of it because he certainly wasn’t hurting for money. In just the last season of Seinfeld, Richards made over $13 million, in addition to receiving residuals from reruns and DVD sales.
On November 17, 2006, Richards was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. After he had started his set, a group of people came in late and started ordering drinks. One of the people admitted that they were kind of loud while Richards was performing. Richards became frustrated with the group, and started to spew some pretty racist language. He told one audience member, who was black, to shut up, and had this happened 50 years ago, the audience member would have been lynched. This was followed by his use of the n-word several times, before justifying it by saying “That’s what happens when you interrupt the white man, don’t you know?”
Many people walked out of the show, and the incident may have never made the news… except someone had recorded the rant and sold it to TMZ. Three days later, Richards appeared via satellite on The Late Show with David Letterman and apologized for the language. He retired from stand up not long after that.
In the ensuing years, Richards appeared in Bee Movie, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the short-lived sitcom Kirstie. In 2012, he was a guest on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and it’s clear that Richards misses working as a comedian, and he definitely misses playing Kramer. He says that he could have played Kramer for the rest of his life. Richards also said that the night at the Laugh Factory still haunts him.
1. Ray Rice
We started with a Rice who coached at Rutgers, so let’s end with a Rice who played at Rutgers. In 2014, star running back Ray Rice was going into the third year of his $35 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens. On February 15, Rice and his then-fiancée Janay Palmer were at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City. The police were called after Rice pulled Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator. Rice says they got in a fight and both hit each other. They both turned down medical treatment and, both were arrested and charged with simple assault. Rice’s lawyer said it was a minor altercation.
Four days later, the video of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator was released by TMZ and it caused a minor uproar. Over the next couple of months, Rice and Palmer got married, while both the Ravens and the NFL reviewed the incident. In July 2014, Rice was given a two-game suspension, which the Ravens’ General Manager Ozzie Newsome called “fair,” but “significant.”
However, many people were critical of the light punishment. Then, several days after the 2014 NFL season started, TMZ posted a second video of the incident. This one was taken from inside the elevator and it shows the actual assault, which was brutal. It shows Rice punching Palmer twice. The second punch caused Palmer’s head to hit the railing in the elevator and she fell to the ground, where she lay motionless. Rice didn’t try to help her at all as she lay unconscious at his feet. Instead, once it gets to the right floor, he carries her limp body out of the elevator and drops her face first on the floor.
Hours after the second video was released, the Ravens ended Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The Ravens settled with Rice, probably close to the tune of $3.5 million.
Rice, who was a talented running back and was arguably still in the tail end of his prime, has been unable to catch on with another team. In 2016, he said he would donate his salary to domestic violence programs if a team signed him, but there were no takers even though there were a few teams that probably could have used him.