You don’t need to be a detective to call B.S. on this cover-up.
After ESPN-SEC Network analyst Peter Burns joked about fellow correspondent Benjamin Watson’s wife, an awkward moment of tension followed. The network desperately tried to sweep the conflict under the rug. When OutKick reached out to ESPN on Saturday and again Sunday about the incident, we were told that it was all a “bit.”
Well, Burns and ESPN quietly confirmed that the whole bit wasn’t a joke. And that the Worldwide Leader of Spoofs lied about the moment in their attempt at damage control.
ESPN Lies About Watson-Burns Conflict
During the first quarter of Monday Night Football, Burns tweeted an earnest apology to Watson over the wife joke — flying in the face of ESPN’s statement that Burns and Watson’s moment was staged.
Burns posted Monday evening: “While it was a joke, the truth is that I crossed the line, you should never joke about family, so that I owe a public apology to Ben & Kirsten 100%. @BenjaminSWatson couldn’t have handled it better with his humor and class. We all good & proud to call him a friend & coworker.”
OutKick reached out to ESPN for comment on Monday seeking an explanation for giving misleading statements on the incident over the weekend based on Burns’ apology. ESPN had not responded at the time this article was published.
Responses to Burns’ tweet voiced support for Peter’s “bigger man” moment. They applauded him for taking accountability and vowing never to joke about another man’s wife.
But if the whole thing was a joke, per ESPN’s official word, why would Burns need to apologize? And why would ESPN lie about the incident and essentially cover it up by putting out the apology during a primetime game?
It’s all fishy, and it looks like someone got caught.
During the halftime segment of the Western Kentucky-Auburn game Saturday, the ESPN-SEC Network crew — including Burns, Watson, Takeo Spikes and Chris Doering — were ribbing over each other’s suits.
As recapped by OutKick’s Anthony Farris, Watson was called out for not wearing a dark blue suit, and he responded by stating that his wife approved of the choice of attire. And that’s all that mattered to the ex-NFL player.
“As long as I get a text from my wife that says I look good (that’s all I care about),” Watson said, prompting Burns to respond, “It’s not the [text] she sent me.”
Fairly innocuous joke, we know. But Watson didn’t take it that way. And it was obvious.
The segment cut to a commercial. Once the cameras resumed the coverage, only Spikes and Doering appeared on screen, with Burns and Watson seemingly quarreling behind the scenes after the joke about Watson’s wife.
It was an awkward scene to witness in real time, and the network quickly tried to stomp out any fires.
Burns put out a picture of the two with a “Friendship” hashtag — Watson’s face was apparently still bothered by the moment. Watson quote-tweeted the selfie with Burns, adding the caption: “Moving on. But you still owe Mrs. Watson a public apology.”
ESPN Tries Misdirection
With all of social media begging for answers behind the possible Will Smith-Oscars moment between the two SEC analysts, OutKick reached out to ESPN’s PR department, asking if Watson and Burns quarreled on set or if the moment was indeed a joke.
ESPN responded to OutKick’s Dan Zaksheske with a statement doubling down that it was all a planned bit.
“Thanks for reaching out. Entire thing was a performance bit. Benjamin 100% deserves an Emmy nomination. I’II be filling out the paperwork on Monday,” their response read.
Any reasonable person that caught the on-air spat called B.S. — OutKick founder Clay Travis singled out ESPN for their crappy crisis management.
“ESPN is 100% lying about this being a planned bit,” Clay tweeted. “Ben Watson was legit pissed about a relatively minor joke here from Peter Burns. Watch for yourselves. No one gains if this is a stunt. And Watson’s Tweet shows how pissed he was.”
He added, “I bet there is some studio footage behind the scenes that got burned in a hurry. May have had a Jim Rome 2.0 going down. But Watson wildly overreacted here. More embarrassing for him not to be able to take a minor joke than for Burns by far.”
Critics smelled even more B.S. as Burns’ new apology on Monday confirmed that ESPN couldn’t own up to the moment and lied that Watson wasn’t set off by the moment.
There’s a ubiquitous truth in a man never making fun of another man’s wife. Look at what happened to Ralphie from The Sopranos.
But to not own up to it and make up a façade about the altercation … doesn’t make much sense.
This incident begs important questions: Do these powerhouse networks feel no accountability toward providing truth about their product to their viewers and fans? Does ESPN hold no interest in providing the true story if it means covering their a**es?
UPDATE: As if any additional evidence was needed to support the fact that ESPN lied about this being a “bit,” Watson himself seemed to confirm as much in a late-Monday tweet. After Burns’ apology and our posting, Watson reacted to a tweet from Holly Robinson Peete, who referenced Burns’ unique way of apologizing. Within Burns’ tweet, he included a mention from another social media user who said his joke “wasn’t that bad at all.” Peete took offense to this.
Watson agreed, responding: “That part smh.”
Stay with OutKick as the story develops.