TPM is pleased to announce that we will be awarding our Ninth Annual Golden Dukes on December 31st, in recognition of the year’s best purveyors of public corruption, outlandish behavior and The Crazy.
The awards are named in honor of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who epitomizes the iconic modern scandal. Each year we single out those practitioners of scandal who through their own unmatched bumbling, shameless behavior, criminality or mere derp have set new standards for public corruption, betrayal of the public trust and general ridiculousness.
And now for the esteemed judges and proud nominees…
We’re happy to have a distinguished panel of expert judges to sort through the nominations and choose the ultimate winners. They are:
Susie Bright, feminist sex writer and Editor at Large at Audible.com
Hunter Walker, TPM alum and national correspondent at Yahoo News
Dan Savage, a gay American author, media pundit, journalist, newspaper editor and advice columnist who writes Savage Love
Megan Carpentier, TPM alum and US opinion editor at The Guardian
Rick Hertzberg, senior editor and staff writer at The New Yorker
THE NOMINEES, AS SUGGESTED BY TPM READERS, ARE …
1. Best Scandal—General Interest
-Ex-Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert for paying $1.7 million in hush money to allegedly conceal his sexual abuse of a male student at the Illinois high school where he once taught. To up the hypocrisy factor, as Speaker, Hastert presided over Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings for his extramarital affair and tried to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
-GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson for getting caught fabricating details of his celebrated personal history, including being offered a “full scholarship” to the all-expenses-paid U.S. Military Academy at West Point, saying he didn’t have a relationship with a supplement maker he publicly promoted, and recounting stories of his violent youth that none of his contemporaries could corroborate.
-Louisiana Senator David Vitter for losing a contentious gubernatorial race after hiring private investigators to spy on his Democratic opponents’ associates and getting slammed for his (many) prostitution scandals, bringing a spectacular end to his scandal-plagued political career.
-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for blowing the lid off the Benghazi investigation—and blowing his own chances to become speaker—by admitting that the committee was designed to damage Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.
2. Best Scandal—Sex and Generalized Carnality
-Michigan tea party lawmakers Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat for trying to cover up their extramarital affair with a fake gay sex scandal that involved Courser being “spotted” having intercourse with a male prostitute behind a local nightclub. An aide leaked recordings of Courser describing the scheme, humiliating both lawmakers and causing them to be booted from the state legislature.
-David Vitter for the resurgence of his past prostitution scandals, which include the discovery of his phone number on the call list for a notorious DC madam and another prostitute’s accusation that he impregnated her during a years-long relationship. An anti-Vitter PAC even ran an ad reminding Louisiana voters of the senator’s unconfirmed diaper fetish—a tantalizing detail that emerged during the “DC Madam” scandal.
-Disgraced longtime Subway spokesman Jared Fogle for having sex with underage prostitutes and trading in child pornography produced by the former director of his charitable foundation. The Jared Foundation seeks to raise awareness about childhood obesity and required the sandwich chain pitchman to visit schools to speak to kids.
-Reality TV star, former executive director of the anti-gay Family Research Council, and friend of the GOP 2016 field Josh Duggar for sexually abusing his sisters and cheating on his wife. The ultra-conservative supporter of “family values” acknowledged that he was “the biggest hypocrite” after In Touch surfaced a 2006 police report revealing that he inappropriately touched his younger sisters as a teenager and the hack of adultery website Ashley Madison forced him to confess he was unfaithful to his wife.
3. Best Scandal—Local Venue
-Maine Gov. Paul LePage for trying to punish state legislators who didn’t jump on board with his tea party agenda by arbitrarily vetoing 65 bills, then messing up the vetoes by failing to submit the necessary paperwork on time.
-Douglas County, Oregon Sheriff John Hanlin for the revelation that he shared Sandy Hook truther videos on social media before investigating the mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College.
-Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis—a thrice-divorced evangelical onetime “Democrat”—for going to jail over her refusal to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage. Upon her release from prison, Davis was brought on stage at a rally hosted by GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to the strains of Survivor’s “Final Countdown.”
-GOP Minnesota reps Tara Mack and Tim Kelly for saying they were just swapping documents about a health-care plan after a park ranger caught the pair, who are married to other people, making out with each other in a parking lot. After falsely accusing the ranger of making inaccurate statements, they were both forced out of the state’s House Ethics Committee.
4. Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy
-Irving, Texas Mayor Beth Van Duyne for stoking fears that Muslims are bringing Sharia law to her corner of the Lone Star State and defending police for arresting 14-year Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a homemade clock to school.
-Republican presidential candidate and professional rage-stoker Donald Trump for calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, making derogatory comments about women, promoting President Obama birther conspiracy theories, using bogus statistics to assert that most killings of whites are done by blacks, and saying all Muslims should be kept out of the U.S.
-Trigger-happy Nevada rep. Michele Fiore for offering to fly to Paris and shoot Syrian refugees in the head rather than allowing them to resettle in her state. Bonus points for sending out a Christmas card featuring each member of her family—including her 5-year-old grandson—holding a firearm.
-Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Jim Inhofe for bringing a snowball—made of real DC snow—onto the Senate floor in February as evidence that climate change isn’t real.
-Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for kicking off “Jade Helm 15” paranoia by ordering the State Guard to monitor a routine military training exercise that Abbott thought might be cover for the takeover of the state by the U.S. government. Some of his constituents responded by sending him pieces of tinfoil for his hat.
5. Best Conspiracy Theory
-Internet conspiracy-monger Alex Jones for taking Jade Helm mania to new heights by devoting months of coverage to the U.S. military’s supposed plan to impose martial law in “hostile” southwestern states and entertaining theories that resisters would be round up in local Wal-Marts.
-GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump for standing by debunked rumors that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks because he remembered seeing it on TV.
-Ben Carson for proposing that modern archeologists got it wrong and insisting that the pyramids were really built by the Biblical prophet Joseph to store grain. Though this is more of an out-there religious belief than a conspiracy theory, we count it towards this category because many fringey Internet sites openly propagate this wacky idea.
-Anti-Muslim activists Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller for pushing the idea that there really was something fishy about the homemade clock that 14-year-old Texan Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing to school, even after police reported that is was in fact just a clock.
-GOP Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo for proposing that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is really a false flag operation planted by Hillary Clinton—a suggestion that’s been picked up by others on the right, including Jeb Bush.
THE READER EMAILS
Best Scandal—General Interest
From reader AT:
Disgraced SotH nominee, Kevin McCarthy. The rapid implosion of the Benghazi committee after McCarthy’s Fox News truth-gaffe was an incredible and hilariously ignominious end to the whole partisan witch hunt. The ensuing fall out—unseating McCarthy as departing John Boehner’s heir apparent, ensnaring and embarrassing Trey Gowdy, throwing the SotH race into total disarray, casting unwanted spotlight on tea party obstruction, and finally bolstering Hilary Clinton’s flagging campaign momentum— has to go down as one of the most spectacular political reversals and “emperor has no clothes” moments of the past few years
Best Scandal—Sex and Generalized Carnality
From reader JJ:
Duggar family values for their reality TV show “Sister-Lovin’ in Arkansas”
Best Scandal—Local Venue
From reader DC:
Michiganders Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser were family values, Tea Party freshmen in the state House of Representatives who couldn’t keep their freedom-loving hands off each other. Facing exposure of their adultery, Courser plotted to smear himself with a gay prostitute scandal, because that always works. Gamrat was expelled, Courser resigned, then both ran for their seats again, each losing spectacularly. Jeez-o-pete!
Meritorious Achievement In The Crazy
From reader MB:
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who is going to take her 5-year-old’s gun and fly to Paris to shoot Syrian refugees.
From reader FM:
Donald Trump. Can their be any doubt about this one? He started with the premise that all Mexicans are rapists, and only got more racist and xenophobic from there. He’s surged and maintained a rather large lead solely on the back of his bombastic personality, his racism and his xenophobia. His ability to say and do anything, at any moment, in public, his seemingly constant state of shooting from the hip makes him the leader for all-time greatest achievement in the crazy. My only hesitation is that he’ll view the award as a positive, and it will only embolden him.
Best Conspiracy Theory
From reader MK:
That Jade Helm 15 was a military operation, possibly in concert with the Chinese military, to confiscate American citizens’ weapons and impose martial law. There’s just so much going for it– the wild extrapolation off a powerpoint presentation, the use of Wal-Marts as secret staging grounds, and how it aggregated other conspiracy theories like a false-flag economic collapse. And of course, it suckered in at least one governor …