Announcing 2022’s Golden Duke Winners: The Odds Were Never In Your Favor

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Golden Dukes 2022. TPM illustration.
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The competition was fierce. Voter comments got messy. Some of our winners only eked out a victory by a few percentage points. But after a free and fair election, and more than 12,000 votes cast, we’re ready to announce 2022’s greatest losers.

What better way to round out the year than by toasting the scoundrels who did the worst the best? It’s TPM tradition, after all. Ever since Duke Cunningham — in all of his shameless glory, complete with bribe menu, lava lamp, and yacht party — brought us into a new era of public corruption, reveling in the moments when public figures reveal their true, often corrupt and comically grimy colors is what we do best.

Without further ado, join us in our celebration of this years winners — one of the most cartoonishly dishonorable cast of characters we’ve raised a toast to yet.

Best Scandal – General Interest

Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump announced that he was seeking another term in office and officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With a whopping 56.3 percent of the vote, the Donald Trump Mar-a-Lago documents case took the cake for best scandal overall in 2022. The whole ordeal has been a transgression of such grand magnitude and pettiness, we’d be doing ourselves a disservice by not celebrating it. Cheers to you, Mar-a-Lago storage units. And an honorable mention to Judge Cannon.

Best Scandal – Local Venue

A U-Haul truck. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The winner of the local venue scandal has, in my opinion, all of the markings of a perfect TPM story. We’ve got extremely dumb racists, we’ve got arrests, we’ve got a U-Haul. And, most importantly, we’ve got some local-level repercussions for behavior that feeds into a broader narrative about the troubling state of our country! As the person who nominated the Patriot Front put it, the headline says it all: White Supremacists Deliver Themselves To Cops In A U-Haul.

Meritorious Achievement In The Crazy

Georgia Republican senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally on December 4, 2022 in Loganville, Georgia. Herschel Walker continued to campaign throughout Georgia in hopes of defeating incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in the upcoming runoff election on December 6. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A lot of candidates said and did a lot of crazy and oftentimes incredibly concerning stuff during this year’s midterm elections. But no one debased themself quite so spectacularly and so embarrassingly as Herschel Walker, the supposedly pro-life guy who started out the midterms with one kid and ended it with a handful of secret children and multiple allegations of paid-for abortions.

But he also said a lot of super weird stuff, in general. Here’s the moment that TPM reporter Emine Yücel nominated him for:

I think the video pretty much speaks for itself but basically in a November campaign speech Herschel Walker went on a bizarre rant about a movie he recently watched. “Fright Night, Freak Night, or some type of night,” he said, trying to remember the name of the movie. “I don’t know if you know, but vampires are some cool people, are they not? But let me tell you something that I found out: a werewolf can kill a vampire. Did you know that? I never knew that … So, I don’t want to be a vampire any more. I want to be a werewolf.”

Most Cringe Campaign Ad/Meme

Dr. Oz visits “Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner” at Fox News Channel Studios on March 09, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

If you didn’t have a chance to watch each of this year’s nominations, I highly recommend checking them all out here: you don’t want to miss the rapping grandma. This campaign season gifted us some truly inspired, foolish gems when it came to campaign videos and social media memes. The winner in this category, Dr. Oz’s crudités, is a bit tired in my Extremely Online opinion, but the people have spoken.

Most Convoluted Conspiracy Theory/Most Creative Take On The Big Lie

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during a rally by U.S. President Donald Trump at the Dayton International Airport on November 7, 2022 in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump is in Ohio campaigning for Republican candidates, including U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance who faces U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in tomorrow’s general election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

2022 was a big year for conspiracy theories, in part because we, as a society, are losing our marbles. But mostly because the Big Lie was resurrected in some truly tangled forms this year that deserved recognition.

While TPM investigative reporter Josh Kovensky’s expertly comedic pitch for ItalyGate probably made the conspiracy theory — and all the ways it has resurfaced in the past year — difficult to resist, it seems Marjorie Taylor Greene and her crackpot Jewish space lasers yelling was too hard for you all to pass up.

Forgotten Heroes

Madison Cawthorn speaks during a Trump rally in Selma, NC, on April 9, 2022. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

We created this category this year as a way to dance on the political graves of some of 2022 biggest losers — the delightfully disturbing public figures who lost their primary or midterm bids that we will miss most. While some may slink away in shame, others, like Louie Gohmert, may find a way to linger in their political relevance. Time will tell.

But here’s to you, Madison Cawthorn. The cocaine-key-bump sex-party news cycle was one for the ages.

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