Year in review: The 7 most controversial figures from 2017

Published: Friday, December 29, 2017 @ 9:58 AM

(L-R) President Donald Trump, comedian Kathy Griffin and film producer Harvey Weinstein are among 2017's most controversial public figures.
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
(L-R) President Donald Trump, comedian Kathy Griffin and film producer Harvey Weinstein are among 2017's most controversial public figures.(Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

This year saw polarizing figures emerge in entertainment, politics and sports, but mostly politics.

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Here are a some of the most controversial public figures who made headlines this year -- two of whom made the list last year.

7. Megyn Kelly

Journalist Megyn Kelly started her new gig with NBC News with a relatively cold reception from viewers, many of whom thought she was brought on to replace the third hour of the “Today” show, “Today’s Take,” with her own morning show, “Megyn Kelly Today.” The latter ultimately happened, and before Kelly’s show premiered Sept. 25, “Today’s Take” co-host Tamron Hall left NBC News and MSNBC.

Kelly’s talk show started with harsh reviews, tapered-off ratings and a report that celebrities didn’t want to appear on the show. Kelly went viral when guest Jane Fonda had a curt response when the actress was asked about past plastic surgeries.

Journalist Megyn Kelly is among the most controversial public figures of 2017.(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images/Getty Images for Bob Woodruff Fo)

6. Kellyanne Conway

White House advisor Kellyanne Conway may be partially responsible for the rise of the term “fake news” this year. In January, she used the term when speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper  about Russia reports.

Related: Photos: Most controversial figures from 2017

Later that month, she used the term “alternative facts” when asked about former White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s false claims about the crowd size at President Trump’s inauguration.

Before that, while speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper in December 2016, she said, “I think the biggest piece of fake news in this election was that Donald J. Trump couldn’t win.”

What You Need To Know Kellyanne Conway

While speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in October, she said she has never used the term, but her history says otherwise.

“I’m a person in the West Wing who has actually never uttered the words ‘fake news,’ ‘enemy of the people,’ ‘opposition party,’” Conway said. “I don’t speak that way.”

5. Omarosa Manigault-Newman

Set to exit her White House post in January, Omarosa Manigault-Newman announced she was leaving her role as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison to “pursue other opportunities,” according to a Dec. 13 statement from press secretary Sarah Sanders. Her former friend and current rival, American Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent April D. Ryan, said she heard that Manigault-Newman was fired and had to be physically removed from the White House. Manigault-Newman denied the claim.

Related: Omarosa teases tell-all in post-White House resignation interview

In a morning television interview after the announcement of her resignation, Manigault-Newman teased a tell-all book about her experiences in the White House. It was met with dismissal by “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts.

Who is Omarosa Manigault Newman

Manigault-Newman may be used to a frosty reception. In August, a number of attendees at the National Association of Black Journalists convention stood up and turned their backs on her when she spoke at a panel.

4. Colin Kaepernick

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has remained largely silent this year, and it’s partly what makes him controversial. 

The athlete, who went unsigned during the football season, popularized a wave of protests and demonstrations across sports during the playing of the U.S. national anthem.

Former pro boxer and entrepreneur George Foreman went so far as to suggest that Kaepernick was unpatriotic because of his protests. 

Five Fast Facts: Colin Kaepernick

Despite headlines that said players were protesting the anthem, many athletes were actually kneeling during the anthem to bring attention to social injustice, police brutality and racism. Kapernick was recognized for his work when Beyonce presented him with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award in December.

3. Kathy Griffin

It took one photo for Kathy Griffin to lose career opportunities and draw criticism across the country. In May, the comic posed for a photo with a bloodied head that appeared to be made in the likeness of President Donald Trump. The image was criticized by many, resulting in a statement from First Lady Melania Trump and a string of tweets from President Trump. 

“Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick,” Trump tweeted May 31.

Soon after, CNN cut ties with Griffin, who lost her job co-hosting the network’s New Year’s Eve show with Anderson Cooper. Griffin said she “went way too far” and apologizedin May. Reports said she was interviewed by the U.S. Secret Service in June. By August, she took back her apology.

What You Need To Know: Kathy Griffin

Griffin also began a public feud with TV personality Andy Cohen, who was named her New Year’s Eve show replacement. In a video she posted on YouTube Oct. 28, she accused Cohen of offering her drugs and negatively impacting her career. She also said Cohen and TMZ founder Harvey Levin “live to take women down.” Cohen denied Griffin’s claims, tweeting, “I am completely stunned by this story. It is 100% false and totally made up.”

2. Donald Trump

President Donald Trump started the year -- his first as president -- by signing an executive order stopping immigration to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries, although Trump initially said it was not a ban.

In June, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Officials with the White House said in September that the president still planned to withdraw from the agreement. Trump said in a speech in May 2016 that the agreement “gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America.”

“Consistent with the president’s announcement in June, we are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement unless we can reengage on terms more favorable to the United States,” a White House official said at the time.

In December, Trump declared Jerusalem the capitol of Israel and announced plans to relocate the U.S. embassy to that city. The decision drew protests and concerns among diplomatic leaders around the world, as the city is a source of conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Donald Trump - Five Things You Didn't Know

1. Harvey Weinstein

More than 75 women have come forward to publicly accuse Hollywood producer and executive Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment and assault to rape.  

Actresses including Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek shared their stories with The New York Times in an interview and first-person piece, respectively. 

Related: 3 women reportedly accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape

Weinstein has denied non-consensual contact with women, but the fallout has been severe. In October, Weinstein’s wife of 10 years, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, left him as more women came forward with allegations. Before that, he was fired from his film company, The Weinstein Company. Weinstein was one of dozens of prominent men accused of sexual misconduct in 2017.

Harvey Weinstein Fast Facts

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Meek Mill sentenced to at least 2 years in prison for probation violation 

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 8:49 PM

Rapper Meek Mill arrives at the criminal justice center in Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. A Philadelphia judge has sentenced rapper Mill to two to four years in state prison for violating probation in a nearly decade-old gun and drug case.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke/AP
Rapper Meek Mill arrives at the criminal justice center in Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. A Philadelphia judge has sentenced rapper Mill to two to four years in state prison for violating probation in a nearly decade-old gun and drug case.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke/AP)

Rapper Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in Pennsylvania state prison Monday after violating probation. 

According to KYW, the 30-year-old known legally as Robert Rihmeek Williams, was already under probation for a drug and weapons case and has been arrested twice this year.

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In March, Mill was charged with a misdemeanor for an altercation with two employees at St. Louis International Airport.

In August, he was charged for reckless endangerment for illegally riding his dirt bike in the Inwood section of Manhattan in New York. 

People reported that the charges from the March incident were dropped after Mill agreed to do community service.

Despite his charges being dropped, Judge Genece Brinkley, who had been dealing with Mill since 2008 following a conviction for dealing drugs and gun possession, still sentenced the rapper to prison.

The sentencing also came from other violations of probation. Philly.com reported Brinkley cited Mill and his managers for repeatedly scheduling performances outside of Philadelphia or Montgomery County. At the time, in 2016, Mill was on house arrest for 90 days after violating probation for unapproved travel.

Before being sentenced, Mill said his violations were mistakes and not disrespect of Brinkley or the court.

“I’m human. I’m not perfect,” Mill told Brinkley. “I’m asking for mercy. You gave me the ladder to do what I have to do to prevail in my struggle. I made it this far, I can’t really go back and start over.”

“I gave you break after break and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court,” Brinkley said.

Brinkley ordered Mill be immediately taken into custody. Philly.com reported Mill removed his personal items and handed them to his lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, before being escorted from the court.

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Rapper Meek Mill released from prison after 5 months

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 5:23 PM

Pennsylvania’s  Supreme Court has ordered rapper Meek Mill to be freed from prisono on bail. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Fanatics)
Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Fanatics
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has ordered rapper Meek Mill to be freed from prisono on bail. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Fanatics)(Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Fanatics)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of rapper Meek Mill.

TMZ reported that the 30-year-old, whose birth name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was denied bail last week by Judge Genece Brinkley. Brinkley had been criticized for having what some considered a bias against Meek.

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In November, Meek was sentenced to two to four years in prison after violating probation for a drug and weapons case when he was 21.

The Associated Press reported that Meek will be on bail while he appeals the gun and drug convictions.

Activists and celebrities, including JAY-Z, T.I. and Kevin Hart, have shown support for Meek. At the time of the sentencing, JAY-Z said Brinkley’s sentence was “unjust and heavy handed.” Hart visited Meek in prison earlier Tuesday with 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin.

Related: Meek Mill sentenced to at least 2 years in prison for probation violation

“We are thrilled that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has directed Judge Brinkley to immediately issue an order releasing Meek on bail,” Meek’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said in a statement. “As we have said all along, Meek was unjustly convicted and should not have spent a single day in jail. We are also pleased that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has noted that Judge Brinkley may opt to remove herself from presiding over any further proceedings in Meek’s case in the interests of justice. Meek is excited to be reunited with his family, and we, along with Meek, intend to continue to shine the light on a justice system in need of reform to prevent any other citizen from being put through what Meek has endured.”

Related: JAY-Z, T.I., and others slam Meek Mill sentence as ‘unjust and heavy-handed’

Meek himself issued a statement that was posted on his Twitter page. He thanked his supporters and advocates while voicing plans to bring attention to people of color in prison and move on with his career.

“I’d like to thank God, my family, and all my public advocates for their love, support and encouragement during this difficult time,” the statement said. “While the past five months have been a nightmare, the prayers, visits, calls, letters and rallies have helped me stay positive.

“To the Philly District Attorney’s office, I’m grateful for your commitment to justice. I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues. In the meantime, I plan to work closely with my legal team to overturn this unwarranted conviction and look forward to reuniting with my family and resuming my music career.”

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’Schoolhouse Rock’ composer, jazz musician Bob Dorough dead at 94

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 5:46 PM

Bob Dorough performing at Joe's Pub at the Public, March 9, 2014. 
Kevin Yatarola/Getty Images
Bob Dorough performing at Joe's Pub at the Public, March 9, 2014. (Kevin Yatarola/Getty Images)

Gen Xers and millennials may not recognize the name, but they’ll certainly recognize the music and lyrics Bob Dorough wrote for “Schoolhouse Rock.”

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Children who grew up in the 1970s and 80s watching Saturday-morning television invariaby saw and can probably recite Dorough’s “Conjunction Junction,” one of the best-known Grammar Rock cartoons, or maybe “Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Abverbs Here.” 

Dorough died Monday from natural causes at his home in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, according to The Associated Press. He was 94 years old.

Dorough was the artist behind the “Multiplication Rock” math series, creating all the lyrics and music for the series, which was part of ABC’s educational “Schoolhouse Rock” series, according to USA Today

>> Related: Longtime NPR broadcaster Carl Kasell has died from Alzheimer’s disease at 84

He also wrote the song, “Devil May Care,” which jazz legend Miles Davis recorded, according to Dorough’s biography.

Dorough was born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, where he “immediately fell in love with music upon joining the Planview Texas High School Band,” his biography said.

He gained musical experience after serving in the Special Services Army Band Unit from 1943-1945, playing multiple instruments, including the saxophone, clarinet and piano.

>> Related: Actor comedian Harry Anderson of 'Night Court' fame dead at 65

Dorough, a 1949 graduate of the University of North Texas, studied composition and piano and went on to perform in jazz clubs in Los Angeles and Paris, but it was a commission in 1971 to “set the multiplication tables to music” that led to his most well-known gig. Dorough became the musical director for “Schoolhouse Rock,” and entertained and instructed unsuspecting children from 1973 until 1985.

In 1995, Dorough signed on with jazz label Blue Note Records and recorded three albums for the label.

Dorough’s funeral is scheduled for Monday in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania. 

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Kevin Hart reckons with cheating scandal in new J. Cole music video

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 4:32 PM

Kevin Hart Apologizes To Wife And Kids Amid Cheating Rumors

Kevin Hart is known for starring in box office films, but he took on a smaller role in a J. Cole music video that references his past infidelities

On Friday, the rapper released his fifth studio album, “KOD,” and it includes the song “Kevin’s Heart,” which alludes to the comedian’s public cheating scandals. 

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In the five-minute visual, posted on YouTube Tuesday, the actor makes several public appearances, including at a grocery store and restaurant, where he is watched by people who openly remind him of his previous marital affairs.

Related: Kevin Hart apologizes to wife, kids following cheating rumors

While at least two women attempt to lure him with their beauty, another man encourages the 38-year-old to learn from his mistakes. When Hart finally makes it home without succumbing to temptation, the clouds form the phrase “Choose Wisely” in the sky. 

Last September, the “Night School” star uploaded an Instagram post to apologize to his then-pregnant wife, Eniko Parrish, and children for a video that was allegedly sexually provocative and showed him with another woman. 

He said someone attempted to blackmail him and admitted he made a bad decision. 

“I put myself in an environment where only bad things can happen, and they did,” he said. 

The couple is still married, and they welcomed their first child together, a son named Kenzo Kash, last November. 

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