A Statesboro man caught on camera Saturday as he swatted a female news reporter’s behind has apologized for his act, but he said he never intended to touch the woman’s posterior.
The video of Tommy Callaway slapping WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian has been viewed on Twitter more than 11 million times, according to CBS News. The incident has received widespread attention from media across the nation as well as overseas.
The video clip shows Bozarjian speaking on camera Saturday as participants in a Savannah road race pass behind her. Several runners reach out, waving hands around her in front of the camera, as she reports on the race. One person even appeared to brush her shoulder with a hand right before Callaway is seen approaching her. The camera shows him reaching out, followed by Bozarjian’s shocked response as she stares after him, her reporting interrupted.
According to Associated Press reports, Bozarjian filed a police report Monday after firing off an angry tweet on Twitter, aimed at Callaway: “You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”
She told police the man slapped and then grabbed her buttocks. The police report said she told an officer she wants to pursue criminal charges.
Callaway denied grabbing her.
“I thought I touched her back,” he said, claiming that he didn’t realize until seeing the video that he actually made contact with her rear. “I did not pinch or grab her.”
Callaway told the Statesboro Herald that he regrets his actions.
“I made a wrong decision, a horrible mistake that can’t be taken back,” he said. “I am embarrassed and ashamed and offer my sincerest apologies to Ms. Alex.”
He apologized in a TV appearance after visiting the WSAV-TV station Tuesday.
Callaway told the Herald that he was exuberant to have reached that point of the race and, like others seen in the video, wanted to be seen on camera. Several people were shown waving hands in front of and around Bozarjian, but it was Callaway’s contact with her behind that obviously stunned her.
While she was not reachable for comment, WSAV issued this statement: “The conduct displayed by one man toward Alex Bozarjian during her live coverage of Saturday’s Savannah Bridge Run was reprehensible and completely unacceptable. No one should ever be disrespected in this manner. The safety and protection of our employees is WSAV-TV’s highest priority. WSAV supports Alex completely as she determines the steps she wants to take next. We have no further comment.”
Not a youth pastor
Callaway was incorrectly identified in some media reports as being the youth pastor of Pittman Park United Methodist Church. He is not, nor has he ever held that position, he said.
Wendy Doty, Pittman Park’s secretary, said that while Callaway is a member of the church, he has never been employed by the church or been a youth pastor. He was a parent volunteer, and has now stepped away from that role, she said.
Callaway, who is married with two children, said that while he is sincerely apologetic for his acts, he is shocked by the flood of social media attacks that have “damaged my character” and made his family feel unsafe. People have taken his phone number, personal information and photos of him and his family and shared them on social media. People have called his phone, making “ugly, negative comments and terroristic threats,” he said.
“I am not who they are saying I am.”
In an interview with “Inside Edition,” Callaway said, "I touched her back. I did not know exactly where I touched her. … I did not see her facial reaction. I just kept on running, and if I did see her facial reaction, I would have been embarrassed. I'd have felt ashamed, and I would have stopped, turned around and went back and apologized to her."
In a written statement Wednesday to CBS News, Bozarjian said, “I want to make it clear that this doesn't mean I can't/won't forgive him. I hope to get to that point eventually, but as in any sexual assault case, it has to be on my terms when I'm ready."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.