A decade after his infamous “white man’s perspective” joke during CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage, Doug Gottlieb addressed the gaffe.
“Ten years ago, yesterday, I tried to crack a joke on the set of CBS and it did not go well,” Gottlieb said on his In The Bonus podcast. Prior to starting his current gig at Fox Sports in 2017, Gottlieb worked at CBS for four years.
During the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Gottlieb joined Greg Gumbel, Greg Anthony, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley in the studio for CBS’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 coverage. And in the opening segment, Gottlieb said, “I’m just here to bring diversity to the set here, give the kind of white man’s perspective.” Cringe.
According to Gottlieb, the joke originated from a friend at CBS, who noted he would be working with four Black co-hosts and said, “You’re actually gonna bring diversity to the set,” shortly after he was hired. After finding the point funny, Gottlieb decided he was going to attempt to mesh with his new CBS’ co-workers by incorporating that note into the broadcast.
“No one said, ‘Don’t do that,’” Gottlieb said of the planned joke. “They should have. Somebody should’ve said, ‘Don’t do that.’”
That someone wasn’t going to be Gottlieb, who remembered trying the joke out by referring to himself as the “token white guy” for CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage during an interview with then-CBS Sports Radio hosts Gregg Giannotti and Brian Jones. “They found it hilarious,” Gottlieb said.
Apparently, that was the only test screening Gottlieb required to decide the joke was ready for the CBS set alongside Gumbel, Anthony, Smith and Barkley, recalling that there was no pre-show meeting opportunity for him to run the comment by them.
“All I should have said was, ‘Man, I’m just so honored to be here with these legends. You guys let me know when you need me. Otherwise, I’ll just kind of lay out in the cut,’” Gottlieb said in retrospect. “But instead, I said something stupid where I butchered the line and is like, ‘I’m just here to give a white man’s perspective.’ I was just trying to be funny.”
Gottlieb may have “butchered the line,” but there was no phrasing that he could have used to make this a good joke. Barkley and Smith, especially, are used to trash talk and polarizing comments, but Gottlieb’s comment was just awkward, as he admits. There was no punchline, no message, no target of the joke, nothing to laugh at.
The joke failed miserably. Gumbel, Anthony, Smith and Barkley didn’t find it funny and the ensuing seconds after the joke were cringeworthy, with Gottlieb admitting he wanted to “crawl into a hole and go away forever.”
With no one laughing, Gottlieb said, “You’re like, ‘Holy shit, am I gonna get fired during the break?’” Gottlieb claims he was able to get through the segment and joke aside, thought his overall performance was good. But during the first commercial break, Gottlieb received a tap on his shoulder from one of the people who hired him at CBS. “He was like, ‘what the f*ck are you doing?’ And I was like, I was just trying to crack a joke.”
“It was a f–k up, because I didn’t need it,” Gottlieb said on his podcast. “I didn’t need to try and crack a joke when I’m naturally pretty humorous. And not really my job. And let Kenny and Charles be funny. They are really, really funny, and no one is ever offended by anything they say.”
And Barkley admitted he wasn’t offended by Gottlieb’s joke. Later that night, Barkley addressed Gottlieb’s awkward comment, noting that it was just a joke and shouldn’t be perceived as anything else.
“Listen, me, Kenny, Greg Anthony, and Greg Gumbel did not take that personally, so all you people at home who have got no life and who are talking bad about Doug Gottlieb — get a life. It is over with, and it’s no big deal,” Barkley said during the 2013 broadcast.
Gottlieb did not lose his job over the joke, but he did apologize in a statement that was issued by CBS that night. “It was not a smart thing to say and I apologize,” Gottlieb said at the time. Ten years later, Gottlieb was much more vocal about the attempted humor.