On Thursday night, the bodies of General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, and 11 others who lost their lives in a chopper crash in Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor were brought to Delhi’s Palam airport. The evening’s developments got live coverage on most news channels.
But there an anchor on a news channel had to be taken off air in the middle of his live coverage on the last rites.
News Nation’s primetime face Deepak Chaurasia must have spoken – or, should we say, struggled to speak – for a few minutes before abruptly being taken off air by the channel.
When the video surfaced online, Twitter was abuzz with speculation about what made Chaurasia ill at ease and why he was taken off air.
The conjecture ranged from the anchor being unwell to intoxicated.
What happened to @DChaurasia2312? Is he not well? Why was he removed from his show 'Desh ki Behas' in mins? Why is his show not uploaded on YT? Didn't look like he was in his usual sense. Nothing he spoke made sense too. Referred to Gen Bipin Rawat as VP Singh & many such errors pic.twitter.com/7YBSUV3TFl— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) December 10, 2021
Most IT Cell trolls and BJP Anchors will now be taking a different route for counter narrative or just remain silent. Because there is no way to defend Drunk Deepak Chaurasia on air. Instances like these should be heavily publicised to dent their images. +— Hussain Haidry (@hussainhaidry) December 10, 2021
When Chaurasia first joined the conversation, as announced by the reporter on screen, there were a few seconds of dead air. Neither Chaurasia nor the reporter spoke. When he finally began speaking, he seemed confused as to who or what he was talking about. He made errors like addressing General Bipin Rawat as VP Singh, the late Congress veteran and eighth prime minister of the country, before his video disappeared from the screen.
In the brief video, the anchor also seemed to slur his words and struggle to form a coherent sentence, even covering his face with his hands at one point. In another slip of tongue, he said, “we lost a journalist” instead of “general”.
There was blank silence for 30 seconds straight after Chaurasia was taken off air, after which a voiceover anchor started talking, without addressing what had happened.
Hunches on social media aside, Newslaundry tried to find out from News Nation insiders what exactly happened with Chaurasia.
NL Hindi spoke to News Nation employees who confirmed that Chaurasia was, in fact, intoxicated. Allegedly, he was in Indore to attend a family wedding. Later, images from the wedding, with him dancing, that had been uploaded on his social media also
A News Nation employee said, “After the wedding, Deepak was reluctant to do the show, but he was told to do it. Actually, he has done the show after drinking multiple times, so the channel thought he would be able to do it. But when he was unable to do the show, the channel, in a knee-jerk reaction, replaced him with other anchors.”
The employee, on condition of anonymity, said Chaurasia was doing the show from Indore and was then replaced by two anchors from Delhi.
“In the segment where Chaurasia was removed, he misbehaved with PCR technicians,” the employee alleged. “That bit was recorded but later removed and the show was also not shared on any digital platform of the channel.”
Newslaundry reached out to Chaurasia but he has not responded to the calls.
However, in a Facebook post on Monday, the anchor issued an apology and said he was unaware of the side effects of an "overdose of painkillers". He said whatever is being said about the video is not the "complete truth". "The truth is that there was a wedding in my house and because of excessive dancing during the baaraat, an old wound in the knee began hurting," he wrote, adding that he did not want to avoid the broadcast considering the theme of the show. He said he took a painkiller in order to ensure a proper telecast.
"I have been part of journalism for 25 years so I don't need to learn media ethics from any one."
Read the Hindi report on Chaurasia’s show .
A weekly guide to the best of our stories from our editors and reporters. Note: Skip if you're a subscriber. All subscribers get a weekly, subscriber-only newsletter by default.