A Reporter Is Speaking Out After a Runner Groped Her On Live TV
Alex Bozarjian was covering the annual Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run in Georgia when a jogger appeared to slap her butt as he ran past her and her camera crew.
Bozarjian stood on the bridge and spoke to the camera while hundreds of runners dashed by and waved at her and her news crew. "Woah! Not expecting that," she said with a laugh as one runner almost collided with her.
She continued talking, saying, "Some people dress up in costume, so it's very exciting."
Then things took an unexpected turn: A runner appeared to slap Bozarjian's butt while jogging past her, as seen in a now-viral video shared by Twitter user @GrrrlZilla.
Bozarjian, who seemed completely caught off guard by the apparent groping, stopped talking and stared off at the man as he continued running. Within seconds, she jumped back into her news coverage. (Related: Taylor Swift Testifies About the Details Surrounding Her Alleged Groping)
Later that day, Bozarjian shared the video on her own Twitter page, addressing the incident directly.
"To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me," she wrote. "No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better."
Thousands of people responded to Bozarjian, some of whom mocked the incident and encouraged her to laugh it off.
Fellow reporters and colleagues, however, were quick to defend Bozarjian and agreed that no one should face such disrespect while doing their job. (Related: Real Stories of Women Who Were Sexually Harassed While Working Out)
Gary Stephenson, chief meteorologist for Spectrum News in North Carolina, wrote: "I think according to the law, that constitutes 'assault and battery'. So he most definitely could be brought up on charges. Sorry you had to deal with this. So uncalled for!" (Did you know that sexual assault can impact both mental and physical health?)
Another fellow reporter, Joyce Philippe of WLOX in Mississippi, tweeted: "This is so disgusting. Somehow you pushed through and I commend you. This should have never happened and I hope he is found and charged."
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time a female TV reporter has experienced inappropriate touching while covering a story. In September, Sara Rivest, a reporter for Wave 3 News in Kentucky, spoke out after a stranger swooped in and planted a kiss on her cheek while she was covering a festival on live TV. (The man was later identified and charged with harassment involving physical contact, according to The Washington Post.) Then there's the story about Maria Fernanda Mora, a female sports reporter in Mexico who defended herself with her microphone after a man touched her inappropriately during a live broadcast. What's more, during the 2018 World Cup alone, three reporters were kissed and/or groped by fans without their permission in the middle of their live coverage. Sadly, the list goes on. (Related: How Sexual Assault Survivors Are Using Fitness As Part of Their Recovery)
On the bright side, the Savannah Sports Council—a non-profit organization that owns and operates the bridge run that Bozarjian was covering—responded publicly to Bozarjian's experience and stood by her side.
"Yesterday at the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run a reporter from WSAV was inappropriately touched by a registered participant of the event," read a tweet from the Savannah Sports Council. "Our title sponsor, Enmarket and the Savannah Sports Council take this matter extremely seriously and fully condemn this individual's actions," continued another tweet from the organization.
The council said it has since identified the man and shared his information with both Bozarjian and her news station. "We will not tolerate behavior like this at a Savannah Sports Council event," read a final tweet from the organization. "We have made the decision to ban this individual from registering for all Savannah Sports Council owned races."
Two days later, the runner, now identified as 43-year-old youth minister Tommy Callaway, spoke to Inside Edition about the apparent groping.
"I was caught up in the moment," Callaway told Inside Edition. "I was getting ready to bring my hands up and wave to the camera to the audience. There was a misjudge in character and decision-making. I touched her back; I did not know exactly where I touched her."
Bozarjian has since filed a police report about the incident, according to CBS News. "I think what it really comes down to is that he helped himself to a part of my body," she told the news outlet. "He took my power and I'm trying to take that back."
Per CBS News, Callaway's lawyer said in a statement: "While we regret the situation, Mr. Callaway did not act with any criminal intentions. Tommy is a loving husband and father who is very active in his community."
When asked about Bozarjian's tweet stating that no woman should ever be violated, objectified, or embarrassed in this way, Callaway told Inside Edition: "I totally agree 100 percent with her statement. The two most important words were her last two words: 'do better.' That's my intention."
Callaway further expressed regret for his actions in his interview with Inside Edition, saying: "I did not see her facial reaction, as I just kept on running. If I did see her facial reaction, I would have been embarrassed, I would have felt ashamed, and I would have stopped, turned around, and went back and apologized to her."
However, Bozarjian told CBS News that she's unsure about whether she feels ready to accept his apology: "Whether I'm open to [hearing his apology] or not, I want to take my time with that."