UPDATED, 8:02 PM: Buffalo Wild Wings said tonight that it has pulled TV ads featuring Stephen Rannazzisi after The League actor admitted to lying about being in one of the World Trade Center towers at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attack. “Upon careful review, we have decided to discontinue airing our current television commercials featuring Steve Rannazzisi,” the restaurant chain said in a statement. The spots were tied to fantasy football and the start of the football season; Rannazzisi plays the commissioner of a fantasy league with several old friends on FXX’s The League, which kicked off its seventh and final season last week. The company did not comment about the fate of their contract with the comic actor.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central said tonight that it has not made a decision about whether to air Rannazzisi stand-up special Breaking Dad.
PREVIOUSLY, September 16: Comedy Central is scrambling to figure out how to move forward with its Stephen Rannazzisi special, which is set to debut Saturday, after learning he has lied for years about being in one of the World Trade Center towers at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
“We just learned about this last night,” Comedy Central said in a statement. “We are very disappointed to hear about Steve’s misrepresentations and are currently determining how we will move forward.”
FX Networks, which tonight airs Episode 2 of the seventh season of FXX’s The League, in which Rannazzisi stars, issued a statement saying, “We are disappointed to learn that Steve Rannazzisi lied about being in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It is upsetting that he would fabricate a story about having survived that horrible tragedy. It is also unfortunate that he did not admit to the truth sooner.”
FX Networks made no mention of any change in plans to continue producing episodes of comedy series The League for its current final season — they’ve produced 11 of the 13 episodes so far – or to alter its play pattern on FXX. The company did say, “We believe Steve is sincere in his apology and will do everything he can to make amends moving forward.”
In social media and elsewhere, commenters have not been so forgiving, noting that it was only after being confronted with information refuting his account that Rannazzisi acknowledged he was nowhere near the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when two commercial airplanes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the Twin Towers, killing thousands. His fictitious recollections of his harrowing experience on that day, in which he claimed he was on the 54th floor of the south tower as the first plane struck, made for a great backstory, which helped catapult his career. That has included seven seasons starring as fantasy football league commissioner Kevin MacArthur on The League.
There are no references to his Rannazzisi’s fabricated story in his upcoming Comedy Central special titled Breaking Dad, so that’s not among the things with which the cable net is grappling this morning. Rannazzisi has told the dramatic story in interviews and podcasts, though none involving the network, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. (Listen to him tell the story on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron above, starting at the 24:15 mark.)
Buffalo Wild Wings, which is using the comedian in an ad campaign to coincide with the start of football season, said in a statement it first issued to the NYT: “We are disappointed to learn of Steve’s misrepresentations regarding the events of September 11, 2001. We are currently re-evaluating our relationship with Steve pending a review of all the facts.”
Confronted with evidence he fabricated his harrowing experience in the NYT article Rannazzisi this morning tweeted a lengthy explanation/apology in verbal stop-motion format that is Twitter:
As word of Rannazzisi’s confession spread, reaction was swift. AMong those commenting, Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson, whose father died while responding to the attack:
Rannazzisi, apparently not recognizing the tweet as snark, responded with a since-deleted tweet thanking Davidson for his support, which caused Davidson to respond:
Among the places where Rannazzisi began telling the lie was Marc Meron’s WTF podcast:
Rannazzisi used to the story repeatedly to explain why he dumped his Manhattan desk job to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career as a comedian, saying he still has nightmares about that day. Now Rannazzisi says he was working in midtown Manhattan that day, and not for Merrill Lynch which, NYT pointed out, has no record of Rannazzisi having been an employee and also did not have offices in either tower.