Heidi Klum Was Accidentally Dropped On Stage, Helen Mirren's Accent Was So Thick That The Censors Couldn't Block Out Her Cursing, And 11 Other Scandalous Moments From Emmys History

Although the Emmys are supposed to honor the dramatic performances that play out on our TVs, sometimes the IRL drama surrounding the ceremony can be just as juicy as the nominees themselves!

Here are 13 scandals and controversial moments from the Emmys, from shocking on-stage events to drama behind the scenes:


During the 2014 Emmys, Bruce Rosenblum, who was then the president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, gave a speech about the state of the television industry. As a joke to get more viewers interested in the speech, Sofía Vergara stood on a rotating pedestal and showed off her curves as Rosenblum delivered his remarks. The joke instantly caused controversy, with some saying it promoted objectification. Despite the backlash, Vergara stood by the joke. When asked if she thought the stunt was sexist, Vergara said, “I think it’s absolutely the opposite. It means that somebody can be hot and also be funny and make fun of herself.”


Katherine Heigl, who starred in the first six seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, was the first member of the show to win an Emmy. When she won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2007, she looked shocked as she went to accept the award, muttering, “Oh, shit” before heading to the stage. In her speech, Heigl said that she hadn’t expected to win, and even said that her parents told her that an actor from The Sopranos was likely to win because it was the HBO hit’s final season.

The following year, Heigl shocked fans and co-workers when she decided to withdraw her name from Emmy contention. “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and, in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention,” she said in a statement. Some took her actions as a snub at the show’s writers.

In How To Save A Life, an oral history of the show by Lynette Rice, Heigl said she could have handled the situation differently. “I could have more gracefully said that without going into a private work matter. It was between me and the writers. I ambushed them, and it wasn’t very nice or fair.” Heigl exited the show shortly after the awards drama, and said she soon earned a reputation of being “difficult” in Hollywood.


Helen Mirren won the award for Best Actress In A Miniseries in 2006 for her starring role in Elizabeth I. While on stage giving her acceptance speech, Mirren joked, “My great triumph is not falling ass-over-tit as I came up those stairs.” Despite the fact that the Emmys run on a small delay to ensure no curse words slip through the censors, Mirren’s accent was apparently so thick that the censors didn’t pick up on her cursing. Later in the broadcast, actor Calista Flockhart repeated the joke, once again evading the censors.


Jimmy Kimmel is no stranger to hosting the Emmys, having helmed the show in 2012, 2016, and 2020. During the 2016 ceremony, held as the 2016 presidential election season was heating up, Kimmel decided to take a few jabs at Trump supporters. “Many have asked, who is to blame for Donald Trump? And I’ll tell you who. He’s sitting right there,” he said while pointing to Mark Burnett, who produced The Apprentice. “That guy. Mark Burnett, the man who brought us Celebrity Apprentice. Thanks to Mark Burnett, we don’t have to watch reality shows because we’re living in one. If Donald Trump gets elected, and he builds that wall, the first person we’re throwing over is Mark Burnett.” While Burnett took the joke in stride, he later thanked Kimmel for giving Trump “free publicity.”

While hosting the awards again in 2020, Kimmel made another controversial politically charged joke. After losing the Outstanding Variety Talk Series award to John Oliver, who is British, Kimmel joked, “Congratulations again to John Oliver, I will be reporting him to ICE,” referring to Immigration Customs and Enforcement. The quip immediately caused backlash, with people on social media calling Kimmel’s remarks insensitive and an example of white privilege.


In 2008, a group of reality TV stars including Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandel, and Jeff Probst, were selected to host the ceremony to celebrate the creation of the new Best Reality Host award. During an improvised skit, Klum pretended to swoon in an unsuspecting Bergeron’s arms. Bergeron accidentally dropped Klum and she fell to the floor, resulting in a pretty nasty bruise that the pair showed off backstage.


In 2020, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo earned the International Emmy Founders Award for his daily COVID-19 pandemic briefings, which were seen as being both reassuring and informative. According to the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the award, which has also been given to Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey, is typically presented to someone who “crosses cultural boundaries to touch our common humanity.”

After allegations of sexual harassment began to surface around Cuomo, he resigned as governor. The following day, the academy decided to revoke his award. “The International Academy announced today that in light of the New York attorney general’s report, and Andrew Cuomo’s subsequent resignation as governor, it is rescinding his special 2020 International Emmy Award,” the organization said. “His name and any reference to his receiving the award will be eliminated from International Academy materials going forward.” Cynthia Nixon, who ran against Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2018, tweeted, “The difference between me and Andrew Cuomo? Neither of us is governor, but I still have my Emmy(s).”


Stephen Colbert, who hosted the 2017 Emmys, opened the show with a series of jabs at Donald Trump, including one where he said he was grateful that the Emmy winners were decided by the popular vote. Soon after, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took the stage and joked about the size of the Emmy crowd, poking fun at his own statements about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, and even shouted out Melissa McCarthy for her portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live. Many thought Spicer’s appearance at the ceremony was distasteful, and believed that allowing Spicer to deliver jokes at the Emmys was an attempt at “normalizing” the Trump administration.


Betty Thomas won Best Supporting Actress In A Drama at the 1985 ceremony for her performance in Hill Street Blues. While heading to the stage to collect her award, a man jumped ahead of her and grabbed her prize, telling the audience that Thomas couldn’t attend the ceremony, so he was accepting the award on her behalf. The audience believed it was all part of a planned joke, until they saw Thomas, who looked incredibly confused, as she approached the stage. The broadcast quickly cut to commercial, and gave Thomas her moment when the show returned.

ABC / Via

Turns out the man was Barry Bremen, who was known as the “Great Imposter,” and had a history of sneaking into high-profile events. Bremen had previously crashed the NBA All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the US Open by impersonating on-field personnel. Bremen said that he had been planning the Emmy stunt for months, and had considered sneaking into the Emmys twice before actually following through in 1985. After struggling to find a ticket, Bremen called ABC and told them he was a journalist who wanted to cover the awards. The network eventually sold him a ticket, giving him the courage to follow through with his stunt. As a result, Bremen was charged with attempted grand theft, but was eventually released after posting bail.


When Kirstie Alley accepted her trophy for Best Actress In A Comedy for her role in Cheers in 1991, she made sure to shout out Parker Stevenson, her then-husband. In her acceptance speech, Alley told the audience that Stevenson was “the man who has given me the big one for the last eight years.” The issue? Macaulay Culkin, who was then only 11 years old, had remained on stage while Alley delivered her NSFW remarks. Jerry Seinfeld, the presenter in charge of following up Alley, joked “The big one? That could be anything!” Later in the broadcast, Burt Reynolds poked fun at Alley’s quip, thanking his wife for her “two big ones” in his own acceptance speech.


When Sally Field took the stage to accept her 2007 award for her role in Brothers & Sisters, she decided to use her speech to protest the war in Iraq. “And especially the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait. Wait for their children to come home. From danger. From harm’s way. And from war,” she said. “I am proud to be one of those women. And let’s face it, if mothers ruled the world, there would be no…” At that point, her speech was cut off by Fox, unbeknownst to Field.

Turns out, Field had said “goddamned” during her speech, which prompted Fox to censor her remarks. “I made the mistake of putting a God in front of the damned,” Field told ABC. “But basically, I feel if anything on Earth God would damn, it would be war. But I guess for whatever reason, they decided that God and damned together was not acceptable.” Field also said that she thought her remarks were justified because it paid homage to her role as a mother of a veteran in Brothers & Sisters.

FOX / Via


At the 1955 Emmys, Groucho Marx not only hosted the awards, but was also nominated for Most Outstanding Personality. When the comedian won the award, he shocked the audience when he grabbed former Miss America Rosemary LaPlanche instead of his trophy, and carried her off of the stage. After the stunt, Marx was asked why he grabbed LaPlanche, and quipped to reporters that he thought she was the Emmy.


In 2018, executives and producers from various soap operas announced they were boycotting the Daytime Emmys unless there were changes made to the voting process. The controversy all started in April 2018, when Patrika Darbo‘s Emmy was rescinded after an error in her submission process was found. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences allegedly knew about the error days before the show, but decided to wait until Darbo had already been awarded the honor to handle it. “They should have vetted each and every submission and then notified those submitting of any submission errors in advance of the voting and the ceremony,” Darbo said in a statement. “The inequity in this year’s Daytime Emmys based on ageism, gender inequality, and perceived favoritism is, in my opinion, a big blow to the Emmy brand.”

Following Darbo’s accusation, other issues surrounding the awards show began to surface. Producers from The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless issued a statement revealing that they refused to participate in the awards until their problems were addressed. Their letter included proposed improvements in voting eligibility standards, the introduction of a third-party accounting system to tally votes, and a rule that prevented anyone other than those tallying the awards from knowing the winners in advance. By 2021, a series of changes to the awards were announced, including an overhaul to the nominee process.


And finally, in 1983, Eddie Murphy and Joan Rivers teamed up to co-host the ceremony. The unlikely pair ended up shocking audiences with their routine, with Rivers delivering a joke about “a Black, a Jew, two women and a cripple,” that many deemed inappropriate. The broadcast was also full of profanity. As a result, neither controversial comedian was invited to reprise their role as Emmys host.

Any other controversies from the Emmys come to mind?

The 74th Primetime Emmy Awards air on Monday, Sept. 12 on NBC.

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