Icons who fell from grace and how they should redeem themselves
Toronto mayor Rob Ford was elected in 2010 on a platform of reducing wasted taxpayer spending. After the election, he told supporters:
"Together we built a coalition of voters who agreed with this — to put an end to the wasteful spending and to watch the taxpayers' money and respect the taxpayers' money."
Since his win, Ford has been engaged in a number of controversies. Most agree that he's handled these controversies with little grace. Last year, a video of Ford was released that reportedly appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic remarks. Ford denied any current drug use and didn't acknowledge the video's existence. He later admitted to it, but denied lying about his past drug use.
Ford became a household name over this controversy and has since made headlines for more videos documenting his obscenities. Cleaning up his act would take some work, but he might start by avoiding cameras.
In 2011, Rep. Anthony Weiner made headlines after resigning over an unforgettable Twitter photo. The lewd photo was meant to be sent to a porn actress, but Weiner flubbed, Tweeting it instead. After a few days of embarrassing denials and late show Weiner puns, the politician held a press conference admitting his deeds. Weiner confessed he had "exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years." He resigned on June 21.
Two years later, Weiner was on the road to redemption in the public eye. Returning to politics to run for New York City mayor, Weiner was considered a viable candidate. And then Carlos Danger happened.
It was discovered that, nearly a year after Weiner's initial scandal, he was sending explicit photos to a 22-year-old woman, using the alias "Carlos Danger." During the mayoral primary in September, Weiner lost with less than five percent of the vote.
The public can be forgiving; but perhaps Weiner should consider behaving like a politician instead of a self-described, "perpetually horny middle-aged man." After the primary loss, reporters asked Weiner where he planned to go from here. He responded by flipping the bird--his middle finger, to be clear.
For a while there, Paula Deen was a beloved food icon. Sure, she pushed gut-busting donut burgers. We didn't care; we loved her and appreciated her southern charm anyway.
But in 2013, Deen made headlines after she became the target of a racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that Deen made racist remarks about African-Americans in front of a woman with biracial family members. In the deposition, Deen was asked if she'd ever used the "N-word," to which she replied:
"Yes, of course. But that's just not a word that we use. I don't—I don't know. As time has gone on things have changed since the 60's in the south."
She also expressed an interest in the idea of dressing African-Americans as slaves for a post-Civil War-themed wedding.
Eventually, the suit was dismissed, but Deen was dropped from many of her endorsement contracts, and Food Network cancelled her show.
Can Deen redeem herself? Some time out of the public eye and an education about the Civil Rights movement might do her some good.
He was a high profile, celebrity-dating sports superstar. But in 2013, while rehabilitating his hip, Yankees player Alex Rodriguez found himself in the middle of a steroid scandal. He was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.
Since the accusation, Rodriguez's relationship with the Yankees and the MLB has been turbulent. In late 2013, he was dealt a 211-game suspension (later reduced to 162) that kept him from playing for all of 2014. He filed a lawsuit against MLB and the players union in an effort to overturn his suspension. In February of 2014, he dropped the suit and announced that he hopes to return to the Yankees in 2015.
Rodriguez is the only player to have appealed a suspension over PEDs. By dropping the suit and accepting his suspension, he's on the right track to redeeming himself. But the fact remains that Rodriguez was still suspended over the use of PEDs, and to regain the support of his teammates and fans, he might consider dropping his pride, too, if only just a notch.
Prior to late 2013, Republican governor of New Jersey Chris Christie was generally well-regarded in the public eye, even gaining the support of some left-leaning voters. When Hurricane Sandy hit, the public looked to Christie for relief. When the House postponed an emergency relief bill, Christie stood up for his region, saying it was an act of "selfishness and duplicity."
And then the George Washington Bridge scandal happened. Christie's staff was accused of closing the bridge in order to summon a major traffic jam, all part of a plan to punish a political opponent. Christie denied any involvement and fired his aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, for lying about her involvement in the scandal.
In early 2014, Christie was then accused of holding Hurricane Sandy aid "hostage" from the mayor of Hoboken. Mayor Dawn Zimmer claimed that Christie received a "direct message from the governor" that he would hold up millions in relief funds unless she approved a development project. Christie's camp called the allegations "categorically false."
Christie is on the right track by continuing to focus on his job as governor rather than embattle himself in the scandal. It's up to the public to decide what his political fate will be, but some experts say he's still a lead contender for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.
Where do we begin?
Mel Gibson has a long way to go in redeeming himself. Gibson went from a Hollywood heartthrob to a controversial figure, and it wasn't overnight. After he wowed critics with Passion of the Christ, Gibson went downhill. He had multiple run-ins with the law, and if that wasn't enough, his arrests were met with awful, racist rants. In 2009, Gibson's long-time wife filed for divorce, and he went on to have a child with model Oksana Grigorieva. A year later, they split, and Grigorieva filed a restraining order against Gibson, claiming domestic violence. She later released audio recordings that featured Gibson spouting a racist and sexist diatribe.
Because of his status as a past Hollywood icon, Gibson might still have a chance to redeem himself. But it'll take a lot of downtime and possibly some professional help.
Arnold went from Hollywood golden boy to well-respected politician--not an easy transition. But his career was majorly damaged when it was revealed that he cheated on wife Maria Shriver with their housekeeper, Mildred Baena. Worse, Schwarzenegger fathered a child with Banea, whom he kept secret for many years. The former governor told 60 Minutes that he didn't realize the child was his until the boy "started looking like me, that's when I kind of got it. I put things together."
Schwarzenegger has since expressed regret for his actions, and he appears to be on amicable terms with a forgiving Maria Shriver. In 2012, Schwarzenegger released a book that discussed the scandal. This probably wasn't a great PR move, as it looked like he was capitalizing on the very mistakes he said were responsible for splitting up his family. The book flopped.
Some time away from the public eye might do Arnold some good. And perhaps he should focus more on action movies and less on tell-alls.
Justin Bieber was a Canadian golden boy, and the public loved his humble rise to fame. Sure, there were minor controversies here and there--an alleged temper tantrum on a flight, for example. But in recent months, Bieber has taken a seriously scandalous turn.
In 2013, he was charged with vandalism in Brazil, and in 2014, Bieber was arrested in Miami for suspicion of driving under the influence. He blamed it on a hurt foot, but it was revealed that Beiber had THC and Xanax in his system when arrested. Separately, he was also charged with assaulting a limo driver in Toronto.
But plenty of celebrities have redeemed themselves over worse. By re-embracing his humility and focusing on his music--the reasons the public loved him to begin with--Bieber can easily bounce back.
Quarterback Michael Vick was an American all-star. But in 2007, he was charged with operating an interstate dog-fighting ring. The then-Falcons player pleaded guilty to the charges and served nearly two years in prison. His endorsers dropped him, and no one in the NFL wanted to work with him. Vick filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
In 2009, Vick was reinstated to the NFL by the Philadelphia Eagles, and he later called himself "a changed man." He has since been working with the Humane Society and has backed an anti-dog fighting bill, saying:
"During my time in prison, I told myself that I wanted to be a part of the solution and not the problem."
Vick has nearly made a full comeback, and, while his name might still conjure thoughts of animal cruelty, he's doing well to focus on his career.
Try as she might, Tonya Harding is having a difficult time redeeming herself after the violent 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan. The scandal made both figure skaters household names, and the incident was so appalling, Harding may never truly shake the stigma.
In 2014, speaking out about the incident for the first time, Kerrigan revealed just how frightening it was. She told the TODAY show:
"When I read transcripts from the FBI, they planned to kill me at one point. That was one of the options. To kill me over a sporting event. That's crazy."
In 2008, Harding released a book that addressed the scandal and denied complete involvement. A documentary earlier this year brought Harding's name back in the news. In the documentary, Harding maintains that she didn't know about the plan to attack Kerrigan. Harding also said of Kerrigan:
"She’s a princess. I’m a piece of crap.”
Whether or not Harding is being honest about her claim, a little less denial and self-pity would do her some good in redeeming herself to the public.