And what a year it was.
Old names returned amid new peccadilloes (here’s looking at you, Carlos Danger), while an obscure government contractor took to the international stage propelled by shocking revelations about the extent of government snooping. Canadians everywhere turned red at crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s antics, Lance Armstrong fessed up, and suddenly everyone was twerking like they were in a non-stop ‘Harlem Shake’ video.
Here’s our rogues gallery for 2013:
The football girlfriend who wasn’t
Notre Dame football player and Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o was known mostly for two things in the sports community until this year: His performance as a member of the Fighting Irish’s storied squad, and the heartbreaking tale of his girlfriend who had died from leukemia. That was until the sports website Deadspin broke the news that Lennay Kekua, the linebacker’s girlfriend about whom he had spoken about emotionally on numerous occasions, was an elaborate online hoax that allegedly began in 2009. Te’o had been expected to crack the top 10 draft picks, but when April rolled around, the first round passed without any team tapping the linebacker, likely costing him millions in pay and endorsements. After being selected in the second round, Te'o ended the year playing middle linebacker with the San Diego Chargers.
Lance Armstrong comes clean
Stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in 2012 after years of denying that he used performance-enhancing drugs, cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted to doping in a 2.5 hour interview with Oprah in January. The tell-all left some in the sports community shocked, while for others it was a mea culpa long overdue. Armstrong had made his name whipping past other competitors with an ease that made his bicycle appear to be part of his body, but it was battle with testicular cancer and the Livestrong foundation he founded that brought him widespread appeal. Armstrong stepped away from his role in the organization amid doping allegations in 2012.
The man who would be mayor
He was going to be the comeback kid. Or something. After resigning from Congress in disgrace in 2011, Brooklyn’s own Anthony Weiner launched an earnest – if altogether quixotic – bid to succeed billionaire Michael Bloomberg at Gotham’s helm. Whatever cred Weiner and long-suffering wife Huma Abedin had going into the race pretty much went poof after a young woman with the better-than-fiction name Sydney Leathers posted anonymously on gossip website The Dirty that she and Weiner, under the name Carlos Danger, had an online liaison after he resigned. Weiner ultimately lost the race for City Hall to Bill de Blasio – but not before flipping a reporter the bird at his concession speech.
Paula Deen: The fall of a fried and buttered empire
The queen of down-home celebrity cooking watched her empire crumble like a poorly made pecan pie this year after a deposition emerged in which Deen admitted using the N-word and planning a “plantation-style” wedding. All claims in the lawsuit were dismissed in August, but not before companies including Walgreens, the Food Network, and Smithfield Foods cut ties with the popular cook. “While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me, now that the remaining claims have been resolved,” Deen said in a statement to TODAY after the claims were dismissed.
The NSA: We’re not spying on you – really
American citizens took a sideways glance at their smartphones and wondered what National Security Agency analysts might find among their Google searches after a then 29-year-old, born and raised in North Carolina, left behind his girlfriend, a secret government contracting job, and home in Hawaii to blow the lid off massive U.S. intelligence programs. The international hunt to track down whistleblower Edward Snowden hopped across continents, with the bespectacled document leaker finally turning up in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, while back in the States he was charged with espionage and felony theft of government property.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” Snowden told the Washington Post on Dec. 23. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
The shame of Canada
To many Americans, their neighbor to the north seems like a peaceable land where front doors are left unlocked, bacon is ovoid, and hockey season never ends. That placid image was shattered this fall when the world learned that their politicians can be just as crazy as those in Washington. Ruddy and a bit on the egg-shaped side himself, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was accused of, denied, and finally admitted to smoking crack. That was only the beginning. After owning up to smoking crack cocaine in one of his “drunken stupors” and refusing to resign, Ford reiterated that he was not an addict even as he went on to bowl over a female city councilor, admit drunk driving, and have his powers stripped away.
What does a girl have to do to show she’s not a Disney confection anymore? Chop off her hair, then reference the party drug Molly and bounce with cartoon bears in a diaper-like costume on national television? Stick out her tongue while dancing all up on ‘Blurred Lines’ singer Robin Thicke? All of the above? Miley Cyrus did all this and more in 2013, then proceeded to light up what MTV reported was a marijuana joint at the MTV European Music Awards in Amsterdam. In a tough field this year with Kanye West and Justin Bieber also vying for the crown, Cyrus was arguably the most gleefully scandalous pop star of 2013.