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Role-Ending Misdemeanor

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An unflattering headline was enough to scare some sponsors away.note 

A form of Real Life Writes the Plot.

The Role-Ending Misdemeanor occurs when, due to objectionable behavior or even outright criminal misconduct in the personal life of a performer or creator (and despite the trope name, some of these role enders are straight-up felonies), they are fired in order to protect a project's reputation, or in the case of an independent performer or creator, forced to leave the public scene because of the damage to their image. This could be an isolated incident and the result of bad luck, or the latest string of being difficult because the rest of the cast and crew simply would not put up with them any longer. If this person is a cast member on a long-running TV show, the character will probably be McLeaned. If they are too integral to the show's foundation, it could end the project altogether.


In some cases this is done as a desperate gambit to force the rejected star into getting help for a booze or drugs problem. Results vary. But if they get their act together, it's not unheard of for a person like them to make a return appearance somewhere down the line.

In other cases, they may actually be innocent of any wrong-doings and their name has unfortunately become associated with bad press; they're Convicted by Public Opinion. Or that perceived behind-the-scenes trouble is the excuse used and they are actually The Scapegoat for a more complicated problem.

If they have cleaned up their act and definitely changed for good, they may face a fortunate Career Resurrection. See also Undermined by Reality, Actor Existence Limbo, Contractual Purity, Overshadowed by Controversy and Creator Killer. Contrast No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, Controversy-Proof Image, and The Tyson Zone.


This is a trope, as the events and narrative affect each other.

Examples with their own pages:

Other examples:

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  • Jared Fogle had a successful career as the spokesman for Subway, boasting that he lost 245 pounds by eating their sandwiches in their TV and print ads over a fifteen year period. That ended in 2015, when Jared was arrested for possessing child pornography on his computer. Then it was revealed that he had previously paid for sex with a 16-year-old and sexually abused other minors. In the ensuing court case, he pled guilty and was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. Adding to the humiliation, his charity foundation was also found to be a scam, and the director was found to be a sex offender as well. This led Subway to scrub their website of any association with him.
  • Any Canadians out there remember those Alexander Keith's beer commercials from the mid-2000s, starring an angry Scotsman who berated patrons for spilling the beer? Well, those ads were quickly yanked from the airwaves when the angry Scotsman's actor, Robert Norman Smith, was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography.
  • Comedian Gilbert Gottfried lost his job as the voice of the Aflac Duck mascot after he posted very insensitive jokes about the massive 2011 earthquake in Japan on Twitter. Aflac does a lot of business in Japan and was not amused by his jokes about dead Japanese floating by. Interestingly, Gottfried didn't get fired for making a similarly offensive remark nearly one decade earlier about the Empire State Building, if only because he made a remarkable comeback joke in the form of The Aristocrats immediately after.
  • In a similar vein, voice actor D.C. Douglas was canned by Geico after he left a voicemail message for a Tea Party group, specifically one called Freedom Works, suggesting that its members were mentally retarded (he has gone on record to say that he was asking, genuinely, if they employed/allowed membership for people legally deemed mentally retarded; that he left his real contact info on the message seems to support this, since that'd be a very stupid thing to do if he were trolling). Ironically, though, this ended up backfiring for the group immensely, as it actually put Douglas in the public eye once again, getting him a good amount of work, including two Star Making Roles as Wesker and Legion in short succession, and giving him a lot of political ammunition (long story short, the group had exaggerated numerous details such as claiming he drunkenly called them with deliberate intent to offend, neither of which was true, and also appeared rather petty by going after him instead of focusing on genuine issues). This post two years later sums it all up.
    • This might fall into the Acceptable Targets trope. Freedom Works is influential in conservative and libertarian circles in the United States, but has attracted its fair share of negative publicity due to high-profile in-fighting among its leadership, legal cases where former leaders were accused of using the organization's resources and employees for personal profit, some very questionable content in their ad campaigns (one video supposed to criticize Hillary Rodham Clinton, ended up with a depiction of Hillary having sex with a panda bear), consistent allegations that the organization serves as a mouthpiece for the oil industry (where much of their funding seems to come from), and lending political support to controversial legislative efforts (such as abolishing Net Neutrality). The organization has made many enemies since its foundation in 2004. A comedian targeting them may attract a sizable share of supporters.
  • The Kevin Butler ads for Sony's various consoles ended after it was noted that the actor, Jerry Lambert, also appeared in an ad for Bridgestone tires playing Mario Kart Wii. Sony didn't like him associating with the competition, and they even sued Lambert for appearing in said Bridgestone commercial (though that was later settled out of court).
  • Alice, a brand of German ISP Hansenet, had been personified since its launch in 2004 by Italian model Vanessa Hessler. In 2011, she revealed she had been in a relationship with a son of Muammar Gaddafi and expressed support for the family. The company immediately fired her and retired the brand soon after.
  • Actor Ben Curtis was known playing "Steve" in Dell Computer's "Dude, You're Getting a Dell!" ad campaign that ran from 2000 to 2003, playing a perky, stoner-like character encouraging people to buy a Dell computer. The campaign was canceled after Curtis was busted trying to buy marijuana in New York, suggesting his performance wasn't all acting...
  • The original iteration of the long-running Sonic Drive-in commercials with a duo eating in a car and having Seinfeldian Conversations featured a male-female couple played by actors Brian Huskey and Molly Erdman. Then a viewer saw Huskey in an Onion News Network video featuring a Black Comedy story about making Iraq more accessible to handicapped soldiers, which the viewer deemed Dude, Not Funny!. He angrily contacted Sonic. Even though Huskey already had a long career doing sometimes-edgy comedy even before the Sonic spots, Sonic decided they didn't want any controversy whatsoever and dropped both Huskey and Erdman. Luckily for Huskey, he would find success soon after as a writer and actor on Childrens Hospital. Erdman has gained notice as the creator of the humor website Catalog Living.
  • Clara Peller, the elderly lady who provided the iconic "Where's the beef?" slogan in commercials for fast-food chain Wendy's in The '80s, was dropped by the chain after only a year. This was due to her appearing in a commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce that parodied the slogan, and ended with her claiming she "finally found" the beef in said sauce. Wendy's saw this as a violation of her Screen Actors' Guild contract, which stipulated that she could only appear in commercials for products that did not compete with theirs, and gave her the boot because they felt that the Prego commercial indicated that she had found the beef somewhere other than Wendy's.

    Beauty Pageants and Modeling 
  • One of the earliest examples of this trope from the pageant world is Marjorie Wallace, the first American to be crowned Miss World, who lost her crown about three months into her reign when, while spending time in the UK, she dated, at approximately the same time, Tom Jones, Northern Ireland football star George Best, and American racing driver Peter Revson. She was engaged to Revson, and had her crown stripped after being caught kissing Jones on the beach in Bermuda; a mere two weeks later, Revson died in a fiery crash.
  • The most famous example of this trope from the Pageant world is Vanessa L. Williams, who became the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss America in 1984, but later relinquished the crown after Penthouse magazine published several nude photos of her that had been taken a few years prior to her entering the competition. Despite the controversy, Williams eventually became one of the most successful Miss Americas of all time after launching recording and acting careers (her song "Save the Best for Last" was a worldwide hit in 1992). Meanwhile, karma hit the offending photos when it was revealed that Traci Lords, the centerfold for the issue of Penthouse that they were published in, was underage.
  • Katie Rees was stripped of her Miss Nevada USA crown in December of 2006 after racy photos surfaced of her partying topless and making out with some lady friends in a Florida nightclub.
  • Miss California USA 2009 Carrie Prejean invited controversy by using her Q&A session during the 2009 Miss USA pageant to declare that she believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman. She then found herself in the middle of another controversy several months later when modeling photos of her posing topless in panties (but not showing anything) began making the rounds of the Internet. Despite the controversy she was allowed to keep her title, only to have it stripped for good shortly afterward for an unspecified "breach of contract" unrelated to either of those incidents.
  • Miss Brazil 2002 winner Joseane Oliveira was stripped of the crown after it was discovered that she was secretly married and then decided to strip herself of everything else for Playboy.
  • A very famous case is former Mexican Miss Sinaloa, Laura Zúñiga, who was arrested in 2008 alongside her boyfriend (a member of a drug cartel) in possession of $53,000 USD and an arsenal of long weapons. She was stripped of her crown but later made a quiet comeback in modeling; her story served as inspiration for the film Miss Bala.
  • Supermodel Kate Moss was dropped from several advertising campaigns that she was the face of after a video surfaced of her using cocaine. However, other cosmetics companies and fashion houses took up the slack and offered her deals.
  • 2015 Miss Puerto Rico, Destiny Velez, was suspended indefinitely from her role by the Miss Puerto Rico organization after she tweeted Islamophobic messages.
    • 2016 Miss Puerto Rico, Kristhielee Caride, didn't fare any better as she was stripped from her crown after she declared that "she didn't like cameras", allegedly this was the last straw in a series of problems she was having with the organization.
  • Munroe Bergdorf, L'Oreal's first transgender model, was fired from her deal shortly after signing it after she made a controversial post on Facebook dealing with the race relations of white people.
    • Amena Khan, known for being L'Oreal's first Hijab-wearing model, voluntarily pulled out from the company's campaign and issued an apology over tweets sent in 2014 in which she expressed anti-Israel views.
  • Miss Turkey 2017, Itir Esen, lost her crown a few hours after winning it when it came to light that on June 15 of that year she had made a tweet expressing support for the people behind the failed Turkish coup d'etat of 2016.
  • Former Miss Earth Philippines 2016, Imelda Schweighart, made scathing remarks about the winner, Miss Ecuador Katherine Espin, after failing to reach the Top 16 and compared Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Hitler. Her overall behavior caused a huge backlash on social media, with many of her supporters turning against her. As a result, she had to give up her crown.
  • Zara Holland lost her title of Miss Great Britain 2016 for having sex on the set of Love Island. She later admitted to Newsbeat that her experience on the show left her feeling so anxious and depressed that it necessitated a prescription and a psychologist's referral.
  • The Miss America Organization was rocked by controversy in late 2017, in which years' worth of emails were uncovered and found to be vulgar and disparaging to a number of contestants. The fallout prompted several resignations—including those of executive director Sam Haskell and president Josh Randle—and caused their main sponsor, Dick Clark Productions, to sever ties with the pageant.
  • An attempt at this happened in 2007 with Miss New Jersey, Amy Polumbo. Pictures from her Facebook account were mailed into the Miss America pageant from The Committee to Save Miss America." However the pictures were so non-controversial that people accused her of pulling a publicity stunt.

  • Heinz's partnership with McDonald's (which is only in certain markets; most McDonald's use their own brand of ketchup) was terminated when Heinz hired a guy who used to be a CEO for McDonalds rival Burger King.
  • In 2005, Cool Planemaker Boeing lost its CEO Harry Stonecipher. Stonecipher had an affair with Boeing executive Debra Peabody right when they were caught spying on rival Airbus and an Air Force official was sent to prison due to a bad deal with Boeing. While nothing illegal came of Stonecipher's relationship, the board of directors decided that there would be "zero tolerance on breaches of ethics" and accepted his resignation.
  • In The '70s, Lockheed inverted this trope: According to Lockheed engineer Ben Rich in his autobiography Skunk Works, Chief Engineer Kelly Johnson was so disgusted by the Lockheed bribery scandals that he almost left the company. Instead, several board members and executives resigned rather than have a company ending scandal due to their chief talent quitting.
  • NBCUniversal ended its ties with Donald Trump following comments he made in his 2016 United States presidential campaign announcement, stating that Mexican immigrants were "bringing crime, rapists, and drugs" to the United States. The Hispanic-run American network Univision was the first to end ties with him following the comments, and it didn't take long for NBC to follow their footsteps.
  • American Apparel's CEO, Dov Charney, was fired from his position in 2014, after several allegations of sexual misconduct and harassing of female employees; Charney was also found to have used the company's resources to keep the victims quiet, which also made it lose money.
  • Universal Orlando Resort ended its leasing agreement with the National Basketball Association's NBA City restaurant, effectively closing the restaurant, after NBA agreed to let Disney open their own NBA attraction at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort. Disney-owned ABC owning the terrestrial broadcast rights to NBA games couldn't have helped. The area where NBA City occupied became the site of a chocolate-themed restaurant called the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, while its Spiritual Successor was an NBC Sports-themed bar and grill (NBC being Universal's sister company), which was actually in development long before NBA City closed its doors (it took the space occupied by the former NASCAR Sports Grille).
  • Amid reports that he had been criticizing the NFL over the then-recent spate of anthem protests and rumors that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (who also owned over 100 Papa John's restaurants in Texas, and donated to Donald Trump's 2016 Presidential Campaign) had egged him on, John Schnatter stepped down as CEO of pizza maker and NFL sponsor Papa John's International. Not helping his case is that white supremacists had praised him for said criticisms, forcing the company to issue an apology for his remarks. On February 2018, Papa John's Pizza ended their sponsorship with the NFL, who would sign a new sponsorship deal with Pizza Hut a day later.
    • Things got worse for Schnatter and the company a few months later in July 2018, after Schnatter used the N-word during a conference call with a public relations company that was intended to prevent the kind of PR gaffes like the NFL incident. The company distanced itself from Schnatter and pulled him from their advertising after the incident. He also resigned as chairman of the company and from the University of Louisville's board of directors. The incident was a huge PR disaster for Papa John's - ironically, the same kind of incident that the fated conference was trying to avoid. Major League Baseball pulled their food and promotions from its stadiums and the University of Louisville removed the company's name from its football stadium. He also destroyed any goodwill he had in the state of Kentucky when it was revealed that his N-word outburst was about KFC founder Harlan Sanders, who he had accused of using such language and getting away with it; To say Sanders' family was outraged at Schnatter is an understatement. And if all that wasn't bad enough, within days of the disastrous PR incident, sexual misconduct accusations against Schnatter from 1999 and 2009 were rediscovered.
  • Carlos Ghosn was widely regarded as one of the most influential people in the automotive industry; at one point, the conglomerate of Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi that he created was making one of every nine cars in the world. But Ghosn's forty-year career came crashing down around him in a mere four days after he under-reported his compensation in violation of securities law, and a subsequent investigation revealed he'd been using company assets for personal use. It didn't take very long for Nissan to oust him as their chairman, and Renault to name an acting chief executive; time will tell for Mitsubishi. The revelations also sparked an international incident involving France and Japan.
  • In March 2019, the Hollywood Reporter ran claims that Warner Bros.' chief executive Kevin Tsujihara had attempted to land roles for an actress with whom he'd allegedly had an affair. This created enough undue attention that Tsujihara had to leave his post later that month.
  • Business Insider's CTO, Pax Dickinson, was terminated from his position in 2013 over several horribly racist, homophobic, mysogynist and crass posts on social media, some which dated back several years prior. He has been essentially blacklisted from the tech industry ever since; and his role as a speaker on the infamous 2017 Charlottesville alt-right rally ensured he'll be continually unemployable.

    Comic Books 
  • Roc Upchurch was fired from the position of artist on Rat Queens after being arrested for assaulting his wife. It would have been bad enough anyway, but the fact that the comic had a largely female cast and a large feminist fanbase sealed it.
  • DC Comics dropped artist Justiniano when he was arrested over possession of child pornography. Wonder Woman: Hand of the Gods, an original Graphic Novel he was illustrating at the time, was put on hold indefinitely due to the incident.
  • The original writer for the Brazilian Mega Man comic was fired because the higher-ups of Capcom found out he was going to usurp the story from Mega Man with an original character called Princess.
  • Capcom yanked the Street Fighter license from Malibu Comics because their comic completely disregarded the plot of the game (which really shows how much they cared) and killed Ken Masters by scalping in the second issue.
  • The career of Indonesian Marvel comics artist Ardian Syaf stopped abruptly in April 2017 after he decided to sneak sectarian Islamist messages into the first issue of X-Men: Gold, expressing his support for anti-Christian protests against a real-world Christian Indonesian politician and making what were interpreted as Antisemitic insinuations against the in-universe-Jewish Kitty Pryde.
  • A Double Subversion with Eddie Berganza, a group editor for DC Comics. He was known in the industry for sexually assaulting women for over a decade, which was even reported to the HR department at DC, but little action was taken other than demoting him from executive editor to group editor in 2012. The resulting bad PR from a November 2017 article about Berganza that Buzzfeed published (during the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, no less) is what finally got DC to drop him for good.
  • In 2004, Jim Starlin was fired from Thanos and dropped by Marvel for nearly a decade for unwittingly violating an injunction against the use of Ultraverse characters by including a brief appearance by Rune, an Ultraverse character who at the time had been the last person to use the Soul Gem. This has fueled some conspiracy theories among Starlin's fans, who believe that Tom Breevort, then the editor of Thanos and more recently the Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, fired Starlin in order to cover up his own negligence as an editor.
  • Aubrey Sitterson was fired and had his upcoming G.I. Joe (IDW) spin-off series, Scarlett's Strike Force, cancelled after posting insensitive tweets about 9/11.
  • Comic book writer Gerard Jones saw his career end when he got arrested for child pornography possession.
  • Writer Chuck Wendig was fired from Marvel during the production of the Star Wars comic series Shadow of Vader (which was subsequently cancelled after the first two issues), and from a yet-untitled Star Wars book; after a series tweets which were deemed uncivil and unprofessional that he made in the wake of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • A series-ending case with DC Vertigo comic book Border Town after it came to light that writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel sexually abused a woman.

    Comic Strips 
  • It's safe to say that Tulsa cartoonist David Simpson will never work again after he was caught plagiarizing other cartoonists (mostly Jeff MacNelly) for over 30 years.
  • Ted Rall was fired from the Los Angeles Times in 2015 after allegations surfaced of him lying about an encounter with the Los Angeles Police Department in 2001.
  • Guy Gilchrist's run on Nancy stopped abruptly in early 2018 after allegations of sexually assaulting his former assistant came to light. The strip went into reruns for few months before a new cartoonist was hired to replace him.
  • In February 2019, the reader of a Pittsburgh newspaper noticed a vulgar message to President Donald Trump in that day's strip of Non Sequitur. Creator Wiley Miller, a vocal critic of the president, later apologized, saying he'd never intended the message to make it to print, and that its inclusion had completely slipped his mind until then—but that didn't stop the paper from dropping his strip for the use of profanity, and other publications following suit not long after.

  • Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago, was (as mentioned on Banned in China) forced to refuse his Nobel Prize for Literature under pressure from the Soviet Union simply because the book violated Soviet laws of the time.
  • Science fiction writer Sunil Patel was dropped by his publisher after he was revealed to have sexually harassed numerous women for years; they reportedly all met at a convention and started complaining about it, and gradually realized they were all talking about the same guy.

    Puppet Shows 
  • There are a couple conflicting accounts explaining why Steve Whitmire, the successor to the late Jim Henson as the performer of Kermit the Frog, was fired from The Muppets after nearly 40 years with the troupe. In a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter, Whitmire claimed he was terminated over Creative Differences: Disney (the current owner of The Muppets) wanted to radically alter the behavior of Kermit for the short-lived ABC series, but Whitmire felt the changes were short-sighted and an insult to Henson's legacynote . However, in their own statement for the Reporter, Disney claimed that Whitmire was fired over years of backstage egotism, claiming that his behavior on-set caused production delays and was becoming difficult to work with. Brian Henson, Jim's son, supports this theory, adding that Whitmire was making "outrageous demands" while also admitting that creative differences did play some role.note  Regardless, this applies to both scenarios since the termination wasn't voluntary.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Double Subverted with Kevin Clash, the puppeteer for Elmo, who went on a leave of absence after allegations arose that he had sex with a 16-year-old. The allegations were soon disproven, though just as it looked like he'd recover from that incident a new allegation of the same kind from another party led him to quit the series. Clash would eventually be cleared of all sex abuse charges in 2014 and still has a steady puppeteering career at the Jim Henson Company to this day.
    • Actor Northern Calloway, who played David, began to have a decline not only in physical health, but mental health in the 1980's. He had a nervous breakdown leading to him getting jailed for a rampage in Nashville in 1980. However, he still returned to playing David and promised to take his prescribed lithium. However, the producers were skeptical of how long he would last and gradually ended David's relationship with Maria (Sonia Manzano) and eventually had him take over Mr. Hooper's store when Mr. Hooper died. His behavior would remain erratic, and after biting music coordinator Danny Epstein in a scuffle and intruding to the high school of Allison Bartlett, who plays Gina, and proposing to her, Calloway was fired/forced to resign and hospitalized and David was written out. Calloway died in a facility in Ossining in 1990 of a heart attack caused by exhaustive psychosis/excited delirium syndrome, literally a fatal nervous breakdown. Unlike Mr. Hooper, they did not make David die offscreen or pay tribute to Calloway in any way (though it is briefly mentioned that David went to live with his grandmother on her farm).
  • The Christian Television Network pulled their 1990's series "Joy Junction" from re-runs on their channel in 2013 after series puppeteer and cast member, Ronald William Brown, was given a 20 year prison sentence for possessing child pornography along with plotting to murder and eat a child he knew from his local church.


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