There are literally too many villains in the news. Here at The Raw Story, we reported so many awful things our elected officials and opinion shapers said or did this year — whether they’re imprudent, malicious or just ridiculous — that there were too many villains to fit into a Top 10 list (sorry Sarah Palin, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Erik Rush, Rick Santorum, Gordon Klingenschmitt and Ken Blackwell; you all missed the cut). But we managed to combine a couple of entries to cram all the bad guys into one conventional list of 2013’s biggest villains.
Dishonorable mention: Jim Wheeler, Nevada Republican state assemblyman: He told a gathering of Storey County Republicans that, if his constituents demanded, he would vote to reinstate slavery. The comments were reported in October, although he’d made them more than a year earlier, in August 2012. While the timing may technically disqualify him from our list, Wheeler’s comments merit a dishonorable mention.
Redeeming qualities: Listens to his constituents. Would only vote to bring back slavery at gunpoint, and while holding his nose. Is that not better than doing so enthusiastically? Oh. Right. Yeah, slavery is an issue that’s definitely worth laying down your life to fight against.
10. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL): It’s been a busy year for the first-term Tea Party lawmaker. He backed legislation to investigate the circumstances of President Barack Obama’s birth – including chasing down conspiracy theories about his actual birth mother being a wanted terrorist – in hopes of invalidating all the laws he’s signed. Yoho called the health care reform law “racist” because it imposed a tax on tanning bed use and said federal workers who were furloughed during the government shutdown shouldn’t be paid – even though he voted to reinstate their back pay. Yoho also invited families in his district to attend a course on buying a gun and using it safely on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. It’s true that YOLO, and let’s hope Yoho only serves once.
Redeeming qualities: As a former veterinarian, presumably likes animals. Voted to reinstate back pay for furloughed federal workers, even if he insulted them. His name invites use of the #yoho tag, which is fun.
9. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “Aqua Buddha” has a problem with sourcing. He got caught plagiarizing his speeches and books from Wikipedia and other sources, and his butt-hurt threats to just “footnote everything” and duel Rachel Maddow were arguably worse than the original sin. And Paul’s board certification for his eyeball
chiropractic opthalmology practice turned out to be just as legit as the “slumbering wombat” hairstyle he wears (i.e., it’s fake, and self-applied). But even more problematic for the 2016 presidential hopeful, his foreign policy is incomprehensible and has been caught palling around with racists, just like his dad.
Redeeming qualities: Grandstanding March filibuster drew attention to a real issue – the proposed domestic use of drone strikes – even if he was eventually joined on the Senate floor by the “wacko bird” caucus, proving that even a cuckoo clock is right twice a day.
8. Paula Deen: It’s not surprising that a 66-year-old white woman who grew up in the pre-segregation South would hold some racist views or make racist comments. It’s not right, of course, but it’s not surprising and can even be forgivable. But her explanation that she was only joking, and that her jokes are usually targeted at group stereotypes, was pretty bad. Fantasizing about a slave-themed wedding for her brother, complete with identically dressed black servants to evoke “the Shirley Temple days” is even worse. Especially in 2007, as she admitted in a deposition for a sexual and racial harassment lawsuit filed by former employees against Deen and her brother. The suit was later settled, and Deen was dropped by the Food Network and many companies she endorsed due to the uproar over her admitted remarks and botched apology.
Redeeming qualities: Her cookware is actually pretty decent, even if her recipes are grotesque caricatures of down-home southern cooking.
7. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): Look, no one is supposed to like the House Oversight Committee Chairman. As the congressional watchdog with subpoena power, you’re supposed to be the bad guy – but that doesn’t mean you should also be bad at your job. In his dogged pursuit of a scandal that can be used to impeach Obama, the California Republican has wasted scads of taxpayer money and revealed sensitive information not meant for release. Government transparency is good and proper, but this is just sloppy and vindictive work. “Derp Throat’s” indiscretions have been so frequent and egregious that his fellow committee members have complained they aren’t trusted with the sensitive materials they need to do their jobs. Issa claimed his office forgot about a court order when releasing sealed documents on the “Fast and Furious” gun sales investigation, and he shared security information on the government health care exchange website the White House said could serve as a blueprint for hackers. Issa also recommended that a health official “watch more Fox News” to learn about the Affordable Care Act, which is laugh-out-loud stupid.
Redeeming qualities: Accused car thief and suspected arsonist with a shadowy business past. Those aren’t good things?
6. (tie) Judges G. Todd Baugh (Montana) and Jean Boyd (Texas): Baugh drew broad and richly condemnation for his decision to sentence former teacher Stacey Rambold to just one month in prison for raping a 14-year-old student. But his justification was arguably worse, claiming the teenage girl – who later took her own life — was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher. Boyd also made international news for her decision to sentence 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years on probation, but no jail time for killing four pedestrians and badly injuring two friends in a drunken driving crash. The teen’s attorney argued that the teen suffered from “affluenza” due to his wealthy, indulgent parents, and his wealth and privilege prevented him from knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Redeeming qualities: Baugh apologized and later tried to annul the sentence, but the state’s Supreme Court ruled he didn’t have the authority to do so. The judge concedes he should be censured, if not removed from the bench for his remarks about the teenage rape victim. Boyd’s sentence, which may allow the teen to stay in an upscale alcohol treatment facility at his father’s expense, will keep Couch under court supervision for 10 years, while a jail term may have allowed him to be released after just two years.
5. Steubenville, Ohio: The sexual assault and subsequent cover-up last year of an unconscious 16-year-old girl laid bare a rape culture so deeply rooted in the football-mad small town that the prosecutions still haven’t stopped, even with the convictions of two teens on rape charges. Photos of the drugged girl being carried from party to party, sexually assaulted, mocked and abused were circulated on social media by other teens who witnessed the attacks, but police said they were unable to find any witnesses until the hacktivist group Anonymous shared the incriminating posts. Residents accused the girl of making up the attack, despite photographic evidence to the contrary, to bring down the town’s highly successful football program and rebuked the media for publicizing the case. After football players Ma’lik Richmond and Trenton Mays were found guilty in March and sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison, two teenage girls were charged with threatening the victim. A grand jury just last month indicted the school superintendent, a volunteer assistant football coach and two school employees accused of helping to cover up the crime. Even the judge who presided over the rapists’ trial excused the teens actions, noting that the verdict served as a lesson of the dangers of social media, and not a cautionary tale against committing or condoning sexual violence.
Redeeming qualities: Of course, even in a town as small as Steubenville, there are good people and bad people. But unfortunately, the attitudes and actions that have landed the town on our list are not limited to Steubenville. For example, CNN’s Candy Crowley grieved after the conviction that “those two boys’ lives are ruined.” Elsewhere, a woman who accused a Florida State football star of raping her said police cautioned her against pursuing charges “because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable” in the football-obsessed college town. (Prosecutors later decided not to charge the player, Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy the following week.) And in a remarkably similar case from Missouri, a special prosecutor decided to re-open a rape investigation after a teenage girl went public to discuss her alleged sexual assault by two football players and subsequent harassment, which also attracted involvement by Anonymous. Rape culture is real, and it’s everywhere.
4. George Zimmerman: History will recall George Zimmerman, if he leaves any discernible mark at all, as an angry, underemployed vigilante who shot an unarmed black kid to death after provoking a confrontation, losing the subsequent fight and then claiming self-defense to initially avoid charges. A jury found there wasn’t enough evidence this summer to convict him of second-degree murder or manslaughter, and that should have been the last we heard from Sean Hannity’s id. But Zimmerman periodically turns up in the news for driving too fast, usually carrying a gun, and beating up or threatening his estranged wife or girlfriend. Zimmerman beat the rap on both domestic violence cases for the pretty much the same reasons abusers always so. But before recanting her accusations, his girlfriend painted a disturbing picture of a desperate, suicidal man unable to handle the pressure of living under media scrutiny but who is so desperate to stay in the spotlight that he’ll commit crimes to keep his name in the news. He recently sold a painting on eBay for more than $100,000 and started a sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing Twitter account. This story won’t end well.
Redeeming qualities: Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha.
3. (tie) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and oil baron Rafael Cruz: Many conservatives don’t trust Obama because they fear he’s a foreign-born Manchurian candidate primed for political success by a nefarious outsider father who wishes to reshape the United States in his own image. So it’s weird that they seem to like Ted Cruz so much, because he was born in Canada and pushed into right-wing politics as a child by his Cuban-born, supervillain-voiced father, Rafael Cruz, who tells anyone who’ll listen that his son was anointed by God as a “political savior.” (And conservatives made fun of Barbara Walters for her Obama-as-messiah metaphor!) The younger Cruz still retains the “boy pastor” style of speaking he honed as a teenager in the Amway-backed Free Enterprise Education Center, even when he seems to be reading from a random conservative’s Facebook wall (“Duck Dynasty,” Ashton Kutcher, “Star Wars,” Dr. Seuss) during his pointless faux-libuster that helped kick off the even more pointless government shutdown he helped force.
Redeeming qualities: The way his eyebrows sweep plaintively upward when he’s feigning sincerity, as if to say, “Aw, look: He thinks he’s people.”
2. The Koch brothers: It’s a conspiracy, man. The banal white faces of dark money are basically the root of pretty much all corporatist evil in this country. Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are behind efforts to keep minimum wages low, restrict reproductive rights and pressure lawmakers into shutting down the federal government in a failed effort to defund Obamacare. Then, to deprive the health care reform law of the young, healthy recipients needed to offset older, riskier investments, they sponsored a campus tour to convince college students it’s cool to go without health insurance. Speaking of colleges, the pair has made large donations to colleges in hopes of buying influence over professor hiring, and they’ve been able to buy economic studies that turn out the results they want.
Redeeming qualities: The Koch brothers have donated a nearly incomprehensible amount of money to medical research, the arts and various museums. So that’s nice.
1. Wayne LaPierre: This ghoulish stain exploited the gruesome massacre of 20 first-graders and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary while lobbing back the same accusation at anyone who dared wonder whether restricting access to guns may have prevented the slaughter. LaPierre waited in hiding for a week for the initial shock from the tragedy to wear off before calling for more guns in schools, and he continued pushing for more guns everywhere with each new, painfully routine mass shooting occurred throughout the year. He claims to represent gun owners, but instead stokes their darkest fears to benefit the gun manufacturers he actually represents. “The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters,” LaPierre said one week after the Newtown, Connecticut, killings. And he should know, assuming he’s not too ashamed to walk past a mirror.
Redeeming qualities: Hasn’t shot anyone, to my knowledge. It’s long past due that we restricted access to ruthlessly efficient killing tools, but nothing will really change until we stop associating guns and violence with manhood. Teach your kids that guns are for cowards.