PHOTO BY InsideHook

The Try Guys Try Addressing a Cheating Controversy (and Succeed)

Culture

I didn't expect to wake up on Monday morning to a TikTok about cheating accusations involving Ned Fulmer, accompanied by a text from my friend that said "you might wanna sit down for this," yet somehow I did.

Like many others across the nation, the Try Guys were known primarily for the positive impact they had on the world. A quartet of average men willing to push their limits and go through life-changing experiences is what initially drew fans to their videos on BuzzFeed, amassing millions of views seemingly overnight. From their non-toxic masculinity to their positive attitudes, they stole the hearts of fans around the country, who continued to follow them even when they founded their own company, 2nd Try LLC.

Things seemed to be going well for the group. Their solo projects were taking off (member Keith Habersberger's comedy group Lewberger had become increasingly popular, Eugene Lee Yang was beginning to pursue many additional projects, etc.), they'd released a book while going on a national tour, and they'd just launched a TV show (No Recipe Road Trip with the Food Network). Yet one fatal mistake by member Ned Fulmer had all of that hanging in the balance.

As a long-time fan, news of the cheating scandal left me heartbroken. How could a man whose whole persona revolved around loving his wife and being a family man be a lie? How could Ned give up everything—his company, his friends, his family—all for one heinous act? These thoughts and more were vocalized by millions on social media once the news broke, and they continue to follow the Try Guys despite the group's best efforts to move past this.

More and more was uncovered as the scandal has been dissected, with both old and new fans alike rallying their support for the Try Guys, their staff, and everyone else impacted. That being said, there is some silver lining to this controversy: the Try Guys gave a downright perfect example of how a PR scandal should be handled, setting the precedent for both content-creators and business-owners alike.

A Timeline of the Scandal

Alarm bells first started ringing when fans noticed that Ned wasn't in the previous three videos or podcast episodes. Now, this normally isn't cause for concern—sometimes Eugene is absent from videos because he's working on other projects—so no one thought much of it. However, something suspicious was the lack of an intro, instead replaced by an ad for the Try Guys' new tracksuit line. Ned also wasn't featured in this, despite being present for the photoshoot.

Eagle-eyed fans began re-watching the newer videos and noticed some details that made it appear that Ned was edited out. In Try Guys Ruin Chocolate Eclairs w/ Pro Chefs - Phoning It In, viewers compared the background of one shot to how this background would normally look, noticing discrepancies. In Try Guys Try Stand-Up Comedy, a piece of Ned's shirt can be seen in the frame. The channel's announcement to post videos once a week instead of their usual two only added more fuel to the fire.

It was on Reddit where things really started coming to light. User Hamilton390 claimed to have DMs exchanged between themselves and a fan who'd seen Ned cheating on his wife, Ariel Fulmer, with his subordinate at a club in New York. There was video footage of Ned to back this claim up. When another user asked for proof, Hamilton390 showed them the DMs exchanged, and they claimed to have spoken to Ariel about what happened.

I remained skeptical, concluding that this channel, known for its drama-free positive vibes, would never get involved in a scandal. The image was blurry, that could've been anyone! Maybe it was my personal bias towards the group, but I refused to believe anything until there was an official statement. Yet sure enough, to the dread of myself and others, there was.

Shortly after this news was made public, the Try Guys announced that they'd no longer be working with Ned. The former Try Guy and his wife then released statements of their own addressing the incident. The Try Guys' official social media pages have even been rebranded, changing from the foursome's iconic colors to a neutral shade of orange.

That seemed to be all Twitter was talking about that day. From comments made by ex-BuzzFeed employees/former co-workers, to countless heartbroken fans reacting to the shocking news, social media had lit up like a wildfire. If men like Ned Fulmer (who'd been praising his wife for years) could cheat, then what did that mean for regular people in normal relationships?

PR Scandal: How to Do It Right

After the initial shock died down, many were waiting on the edge of their seats for more updates on the situation. It came just days later, when the Try Guys issued a formal statement on their Youtube channel, setting the record straight about the timeline and discussing how they were going to move forward. Though they couldn't explicitly say much (no doubt due to their lawyers), their expressions spoke volumes.

The majority of viewers (including myself) all came to the same conclusion: the Try Guys handled this perfectly. YouTube is no stranger to controversy and scandal, but what was a surprise was how well this company handled it. Half-baked apology videos and leaving consequences unaddressed is the backbone of YouTube drama, so it was a refreshing change to see this channel not only address this issue, but handle it the right way.

As their video stated, they took action immediately, confronting Ned about the allegations as soon as they discovered them instead of sweeping them under the rug. Not only that, but as confirmed in their podcast episode, they would not continue working with him, even if the news never became public. To see men in a position of power holding their equally powerful friend accountable for his actions reinforces the idea that we should make workplaces a safe space and not excuse inappropriate behavior.

Something that stood out to a lot of viewers was how protective the guys were of their staff, saying that the people who didn't do anything wrong shouldn't be negatively affected. The clear empathy and defensiveness of the people caught in the middle of this truly speaks to the values of their company, and actually made them more likable in the midst of all the drama. It separated them from Ned—whose actions couldn't have been more careless—not only as a brand but as people.

The Impact: Personal and National

Nobody expected the news to blow up this much, not even the Try Guys themselves. It was obviously going to shock their fanbase, but to have this explode nationally was something no one was prepared for.

On a national scale, the brand has already been dealing with repercussions. Their Food Network show has been moved from it's primetime spot of 10pm to a morning slot, which can affect how many people watch the show. There was even a distasteful SNL skit about them, which was both unnecessarily tone-deaf and unfunny. As many have pointed out, it's quite ironic that a company with a history of workplace misconduct allegations decided to mock men who actually took this issue seriously, but I suppose comedy is subjective.

Publishers like Variety and The New York Times, big-name companies, have been reporting on this left and right. Twitter has not stopped blowing up. My YouTube recommendation feed is now filled with videos like "Ned moments that aged horribly." It's clear that the media can't get enough of this story: the beloved "wife guy" cheats on his wife and tries to take his entire company down with him.

But on a personal level, Ned's actions seem to have a much more detrimental effect. Fans got a peak of this on the guys' recent TryPod episode, going into more depth about the scandal and how it impacted them emotionally.

My heart ached for Keith when he said he had anxiety about going to the grocery store for fear of people judging him after the incident, or how he couldn't enjoy his tour with Lewberger because of his worry about when the news would release. Listening to Zach detailing how his chronic pain worsened with all this added stress from lawyers and company responsibilities was crushing. To see the guys known for their positive attitudes and funny one-liners in a serious setting was a tough pill to swallow.

The guys comparing the experience to "stages of grief" and "trauma" really reinforced the severity of emotional damage Ned caused them. To have nearly a decade-long friendship with someone only to have it end in betrayal and distrust is distressing to say the least. If the reaction from some of his closest friends is so bad, I can only imagine what his family is dealing with behind the scenes.

Final Thoughts

The reality of this situation is that Ned Fulmer was an example of how to have a healthy relationship and family life. He set the expectation that men should actually love their wives instead of reverting to the all-too-common attitude of treating marriage like a shackle. As a child of divorce, it was downright inspiring to see such a positive male role model treat his wife and sons with such adoration and care, so I was devastated when I heard news of a scandal.

But the issue lies much deeper than a man who cheated on his wife and contradicted his online persona. It's not just about the fact that his family was a part of his brand. It's not just about the fact that he was a "wife guy." It's certainly not about the fact that, as SNL put it, "he committed the heinous act of having a consensual kiss and not telling us, his friends." These things do matter, but the root of the controversy boils down to a man in a position of power behaving inappropriately in the workplace with an employee. That's why Ned was fired.

A part of me is sad to see this era of the Try Guys end—they were some of the main people I watched growing up, and had such a large impact on my generation—but a stronger part of me sees this as an opportunity. Now that Ned is gone, the Try Guys can change their content going forward, and can even use their platform to promote their personal projects.

I'm excited to see the new direction they're headed, and hope all this newfound attention will bring them more viewers and subscribers. I doubt this controversy will die down right away because of its large national effect, but I have full confidence that the Try Guys will use this attention in a positive way. They've just reached 8 million subscribers after a stagnant period, so the internet has spoken. There are hundreds of new people eager to support their company, wherever they decide to take it, because at its heart lies three men who employ the values they've proven to have from the getgo: integrity, empathy, and the determination to keep trying even after failure.

Sevasti Karonis
20k+ pageviews

Sevasti "Seva" Karonis is an aspiring writer from New York, NY seeking to change the world one story at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found playing the guitar, listening to some Queen, or scrolling through Pinterest.