From “The Pazuzu Excuse” Files: The Justly-Fired TV Reporter’s Lament

Colleen Campbell, a local  Philadelphia television reporter, got herself fired for an obscenity-packed rant berating a cop  outside a Philadelphia comedy club. What she didn’t know was that the whole, ugly thing was filmed. You know that rule that says “ethics is what you do when nobody’s looking except your embarrassed companion and a policeman who you have no respect for anyway because he’s just a cop? That’s the one Colleen whiffed on.

Campbell ae was kicked out of the club for “loud whispering” throughout the show. Once outside, she denied being disruptive to an officer who removed her. The officer replied that Campbell and her male friend needed to just leave the scene. The reporter replied, charmingly,

Or what? Or what, motherfucker? Lick my asshole. How about that? Fucking piece of shit. That’s why nobody likes fucking police … idiots in this fucking town.”

Campbell, 28, didn’t know her act was caught on camera and posted to Facebook until after she received word from the station that she had been fired. Now she says…

“That’s not me or how I talk or act or anything at all…I don’t know what to do. I feel ruined and embarrassed for me and my family….I feel awful…That’s not me or how I speak or how I talk or how I was raised. I had to delete all my social media, because I’m getting threats….I wanna apologize to the officer. I don’t remember the whole altercation at all. I remember feeling attacked. I would never talk like that. It was like watching a whole different me.”

The Kathy Griffin episode sparked several of those currently popular blog posts and web essays about how social media destroys people who make “one mistake” and if it could happen to them, it can happen to you. Ethics Alarms has had several of these posts in the past, always about regular citizens who had an ugly e-mail distributed to the universe by an angry girl friend, or a tasteless or misunderstood tweet to a friend gone viral. No question: these web lynchings are out of proportion to the offense.

Then there is the next category of people who intentionally engage in unethical conduct and publicize it themselves, like the women who posted photos of themselves being disrespectful at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, getting them fired.

I have little sympathy for them. They proclaimed their asshole qualities to the world, and their employer didn’t want to be known as an organization who employed people like that. This is an ethics lesson to heed: you represent your employer in your public conduct, even when you are not working, especially when you are complicit in making that conduct public.  Also in this second category is Adam Smith, the one-time executive who wrecked his own career, with the help of another cyber-mob, by proudly posting a video of himself abusing an innocent Chic-fil-A  employee because Smith didn’t like her boss’s objections to gay marriage.

Finally there is the third category, where Griffin and Campbell dwell. If your job requires you to be in front of the public and you have to be liked (Griffin) or trusted (Campbell, as a reporter) to be effective, you can’t engage in conduct that makes it clear that you mean-spirited, a bully, or worse. Griffin and Campbell are kept company in this group bu people like Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olberman,  Martin Bashir, and Mel Gibson.

Campbell is not even a close call. In addition to acting like a harridan, she was foul-mouthed, unjust, drunk in public, abused an officer, and later lied, initially claiming to have had only one drink (and suggesting that she had been drugged) to admitting that she had really downed five. (We don’t tend not to believe reporters who have been caught lying.) She gets on the bad side of Ethics Alarms by resorting to The Pazuzu Excuse, saying,

“That’s not me or how I speak or how I talk or how I was raised….I would never talk like that. It was like watching a whole different me.”

You see, Colleen, when there is video on YouTube of you talking like that, it means you talk like that. You can’t say you never talk like that, because you did, in fact, talk like that.

Interestingly, she also tries some tactic from Griffin’s play book, notably the “Feel sorry for me! I’m getting threats!” and “I want to apologize!” As to the first, yes, threats are bad, but they don’t make what she did any better. As for wanting to apologize, what’s stopping her? She should apologize, but with the understanding that the ugly person on the YouTube video isn’t going away. Who wants to get their news from someone like that, no matter how sorry she is?

32 thoughts on “From “The Pazuzu Excuse” Files: The Justly-Fired TV Reporter’s Lament

  1. Yikes, that was difficult to watch. Yeah, you don’t talk like that, unless you do. Is there an ethical apology other than “I’m sorry. I have no excuse. I am a bad person.”

    • ” I apologize to the officer, the city, my family, the station, the police and the people of Philadelphia. There can be no excuse for such conduct in public or private, and I will commit myself to a merciless self-audit of my character, self-control, and habits to eliminate whatever it is within me that causes me to speak and behave so horribly. I know I have a daunting task ahead of me as I work to regain the trust and respect I forfeited, but I promise that I will dedicate myself to that task until this episode can be truly said not to represent who I am. When that day comes, I hope that I will be worthy of forgiveness.”

      • That’s good Jack. The question is whether a person who has the wherewithal to make such an apology ever place themselves in the position where they have to make it?

        I think you should set up a website,, where for a generous fee, you would assist the Kathy Griffins and Colleen Campbells of the world craft ethical apologies in the wake of potentially career ending stupidity. .

        • … and enable them to escape the results of their actions? I disagree. Part of the process of becoming an ethical person is to learn how, when and why to apologize.

          If Jack did it for them, they keep right on living as they are.

          Friends don’t let friends remain assholes. 😂

  2. Is how you talk the way you talk out loud with your filter on, or the way you talk inside your head that becomes out loud when your filter is off, or the way you talk out loud when you’re with people who talk the same way you talk inside or outside of your head? Those words have to have been somewhere inside her head before she said them out loud.

    With people like Griffin and Campbell I will give them the same amount and kind of forgiveness they extend to the people they think offended them. Example: Will Campbell forgive any offenses toward her (real or imagined) that she thinks the police or her former employer have made or will she double down? Same for Griffin, any all the rest of the mob representatives who deal in offending the enemy. I’m afraid the “hit back twice as hard” gang don’t quite understand how forgiveness works in the real world.

  3. Bo-dy-cams, bo-dy-cams, bo-dy-cams….

    Seriously, anti-cop activists croon like body cams will hold officers to account. It might, for some. More likely than not, more often it will mean that they won’t have to rely on bystanders and Face Book to prove what actually happened.

    • I recently attended a Citizens Academy in my county. Two police forces and the County Sheriff’s department all gave 30 vetted citizens, over the course of 11 weeks, a view into how cops view the world.

      One police department has body cams. Their thoughts are mixed: on the one hand, it shows how many really treat them, and nips complaints in the bud. On the other hand, the camera does not show everything the cop can see, and thus is an incomplete record for why the cop reacted as they did, perhaps based on peripheral vision, for instance.

      Just was interesting to me how they feel.

  4. Question from a non-alcohol drinker: Just how easy is it in real life to have a blackout like this, when you’re still conscious enough to do stupid stuff but completely forget what happened after you sober up?

    Not that it would excuse her behavior. At the very least she still responsible for getting so wasted.

    • Answer from a drinker: very, very, difficult. If you’re conscious and upright and able to string two words together, you’re nowhere near blackout level or I don’t remember level. That’s the scary part – I don’t think she’s that drunk!

      in my youth, I worshipped the porcelain god on a number of occasions. I never passed out and I always remembered the next day what I did. Alcohol effects different people differently but not plausible here.

    • I had a platoon sergeant tell me about the last time he ever drank.

      He woke up on his front lawn when the sun had risen high enough to be bright, foot still inside the car because it was tangled up in the seat belt.

      The car was parked perfectly in the driveway and when he asked his wife why she didn’t come get him her answer was “hopefully you learned your lesson”.

      Some people are high functioning drunks. When I used to drink too heavily, though, I knew it and my speech definitely showed it. Maybe some people are still ridiculously coherent while all other faculties and inhibitions disappear…

      Campbell is a Scottish last name right?

      I mean…just saying…

      • Yes it is. In fact it’s the name of arguably the greatest general that nation gave birth to – Colin Campbell, born the son of a Glasgow carpenter, who died a field marshal and a nobleman. Colleen did not bring honor to that name.

  5. Behavior that’s natural to an individual will be recurring behavior, it’s almost impossible to completely conceal one’s innermost character traits.

    Colleen Campbell had her inner character revealed and now she has to live with it.

    Touch shit lady!

  6. After 47 years of searching I think I have found the perfect mate…yeah right. Whoever she’s with should just consider suicide before she kills him. It would have served her right if the PPD put a Chicago-PD/NYPD-Blue-style beatdown on her.

  7. First of all, Jack, great word choice with “harridan,” although you transposed the double r with a double d. I had to look it up, and I very rarely have to do that. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary.

    Second, this “Look at me! What an asshole I am! Isn’t it funny how I was such a dickweed to this jerk!!” followed by “omgimsosorrypleaseforgiveme” is just crap. Kathy Griffin acted like an asshole who got an asshole’s comeuppance. Same with Smith and now this Campbell person.

    I get the argument that we all screw up and deserve forgiveness. I agree with that. But that isn’t a defense, it’s an excuse. When we get drunk and act the fool, we deserve what we get, usually.

    Campbell needs to take this one on the chin, learn from it, learn how to make a proper apology and set about living a better life. That’s what we should all do when we let our asses show. She acted the fool and cost herself a job, maybe a career — fine, it happens, even to otherwise good people. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over. Don’t ask for forgiveness — accept responsibility, make a sincere apology, demonstrate that you learned your lesson, and start living like a responsible, ethical adult instead of a hellion. If you do that, forgiveness will come.

    But don’t blame the Devil or the alcohol, baby, it was you who drunk it and you who said it. If Old Scratch was there, it’s because you invited him.

  8. One other thing I forgot to add — living in a society with a video camera on you, as we all must now assume, is way different from when this technology didn’t exist. People need to be aware of that. You might get away with this sort of craziness without the video, but with it… no way.

    So if you want to act like a drunken viking, it’s best you do it alone, or among friends you can trust these days. Otherwise, you might be the star of what used to be known as “Candid Camera.”

  9. Three observations:

    1) that officer deserves a lot of credit for remaining calm and professional throughout the whole incident

    2) there’s a moment, around 1:15 of the video, where her companion suddenly remembers it’s 2017, and quickly starts to look for anyone filming. The dejected reaction at 1:20 when he sees the person recording them is priceless.

    3) the best part is around 3:50 where she finally sees the cameraman, and assumes that he’s filming to document a case of a cop abusing his power. She actually thinks the comedian whose show she disrupted is on her side!

  10. Anytime you invoke the name of your employer in your tirade, it’s no longer a personal matter. Even if this wasn’t filmed, if word got back to your employer that their name was used in vain, you are subject to whatever repercussions they deem appropriate.

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