Dressed in a neon yellow shirt with microphone in hand, Alex Bozarjian stood along the Savannah Bridge Run route Saturday morning and described the race on live TV to viewers watching from home.
Enthusiastic runners passed by, whooping and cheering in the background of her live shot for NBC affiliate WSAV 3 in Savannah, Georgia. She laughed as one person, dressed in a gorilla costume, swooped into view and kept running. "Woah," she said, smiling. "Not expecting that."
But she did not smile, and she did not laugh, at the next person who interrupted her reporting.
Just seconds later, a man wearing sunglasses and a blue long-sleeve shirt ran past Bozarjian and smacked her lower half. Shocked, her face dropped and she stuttered over her words before quickly recovering to continue reporting.
To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better. https://t.co/PRLXkBY5hn— Alex Bozarjian (@wsavalexb) December 7, 2019
The moment, which illustrates the kind of sexual harassment TV reporters face on the job, was captured on video and posted to social media. On Saturday afternoon, after covering the race, Bozarjian shared it alongside a firm message.
"To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning," she wrote. "You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better."
Robert Wells, director of the Savannah Sports Council, which sponsored the race, quickly responded to the viral video. "This will not be tolerated at our events," Wells wrote on Twitter. "Glad we have race bibs and photos for easy identification."
To Bozarjian, he wrote: "Alex, what happened today is 100% unacceptable. You have my assurance we will identify him."
Internet sleuths quickly worked to find and name the man who touched Bozarjian.
Keturah Greene, a public information coordinator for the Savannah Police Department, said that local authorities are aware of the incident and have talked with Bozarjian. They said their ability to investigate further depends on how she would like to proceed.
"The Savannah Police Department is more than willing and ready to work with her," Greene said.
Bozarjian did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Wells or the TV station WSAV.
Other female TV reporters have made public statements of support on social media since video of the incident first went viral. "You handled it with grace, my friend," Emma Hamilton, a reporter at another TV station in Savannah, wrote on Twitter. "This is not acceptable and the community has your back."
"DO NOT TOUCH REPORTERS," said Caitlyn Penter, another TV reporter in North Carolina. "Period."
Bozarjian's on-air assault joins a growing list of misconduct incidents perpetrated against female reporters while they were trying to do their jobs - at sporting events and community festivals. Often, the women are forced to recover gracefully for the sake of the story.
In 2003, Joe Namath apologized to ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber after telling her twice during a sideline interview at a Patriots-Jets game that he wanted to kiss her. In response to his unprofessional comments, Kolber kicked it back to the announcers after saying: "Thanks, Joe. A huge compliment."
While covering the World Cup in Russia, Columbian reporter Julieth Gonzalez Theran was sexually assaulted on air by a man who kissed her cheek and grabbed her breast. Theran posted video of the incident to Instagram, where she called wrote that female journalists "do not deserve this treatment," reported KTLA 5. "We are equally as professional and deserving," she wrote. "I share the joy of football but we must identify the limits between affection and harassment."
Earlier this year, a Kentucky man was charged with misdemeanor harassment after he kissed Kentucky TV reporter Sara Rivest while she was live on air. She pulled away and laughed uncomfortably, saying the man's actions were "not appropriate." Later, she told a colleague in an interview she did not know how to react. "I was shocked, but my nervous laughter does not equate to approval of his actions," Rivest said, according to the New York Daily News. "It was an exertion of power over me - a woman trying to do her job who couldn't stop him. This embarrassed me, and made me feel uncomfortable and powerless."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)