It took about an hour. And it only happened after audio of a baby crying was played to mock his sick partner. But WFAN afternoon drive host Tiki Barber acknowledged his bogus report about Robert Saleh and the Jets during Monday’s program.
Barber’s response: An apology that was only slightly more based in reality than when he said last Friday the Jets had canceled a joint practice with the Buccaneers to cover up for the fact Saleh could not attend — something that was immediately shot down in all corners of the Gang Green press corps.
“I made a reckless speculation about what coach Saleh was doing, and I know that was reckless,” Barber said. “I’ve talked to coach Saleh, I’ve talked to the Jets and we’ve smoothed it out. And I just wanted to apologize publicly to coach Saleh and to the Jets. And I know where I went wrong in that, and we have talked it out, sort of speak. I just wanted to get that out there because I know some people were curious about my thinking in that. But that’s where it comes from. We speculate in this business, and that’s where I was wrong.”
No, Barber was wrong because he irresponsibly and smugly pushed an easily-refuted claim as stone-cold fact, then had no urgency to correct the record.
WFAN has deleted a social media video of Barber’s report and wiped an aggregation of his comments from its website. But archived audio of the show remains on the Audacy app. The time stamp for the conversation is even marked — it starts at 2:31 and is still labeled as the “real reason” the practice was canceled.
Barber starts the segment by announcing he got off-air permission from co-host Evan Roberts (out sick Monday) to share his “gossip” on air.
“I believe from what I have now ascertained through a second-hand party that coach Saleh couldn’t be at practice,” Barber said, “and as a result, because they were being filmed by ‘Hard Knocks’ — and this is the most important part of it — that when Saleh couldn’t be there, they had to cancel practice. Because it would elicit questions. ‘Why isn’t the coach here?’”
(Saleh was still at the Jets’ solo practice Thursday. And HBO’s cameras would have run no matter what. But anyway.)
FROM EARLIER: Why should anyone take WFAN seriously?
There is no reasonable way to argue Barber was speculating with his comments. Moreover, Roberts made a comment that Barber “knows” what he is saying is true. And that they know why Saleh could not make it, with sidekick Shaun Morash chiming in to assure listeners a “family medical issue” is not behind Saleh’s alleged lack of availability.
“We know the reason and it’s not worth sharing. It’s personal and it’s nothing serious,” Roberts added before asking Barber if that was a “fair description” of the situation, at which point Barber agreed it was.
So to recap: Barber acquired information, asked Roberts if he could discuss it, got clearance, discussed it and alluded to more details he did not want to reveal. And once he got called out, he waited a few days before issuing a half-hearted mea culpa and claiming it was mere spitballing.