The past year has been action-packed. Russia invaded Ukraine; Malaysia Airlines lost a plane and saw another shot down; ISIS rose; Ebola spread; protests raged over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; ballots were cast; immigrants flooded into the U.S.; Sony was hacked; and much, much more.
And for every big story, there was seemingly someone to say something a little bit crazy. From using fear-mongering tactics to dissing Obama’s daughters and making cringe-worthy remarks about sexual orientation and race, here’s a look back at the most eyebrow-raising figures who left their mark on 2014.
1. Tom Cotton: ISIS is working with Mexican drug cartels. Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who successfully unseated Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, suggested at a tele-town hall meeting that ISIS extremists are collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate America’s southern border.
“The problem with Mark Pryor and Barack Obama refusing to enforce our immigration laws and refusing to secure our border. I’ll change that when I’m in the U.S. Senate,” he said in October. “And I would add, it’s not just an immigration problem. We now know that it’s a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism.” He later said, “They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.”
U.S. officials and counterterrorism experts have repeatedly said there is no evidence that ISIS is attempting to infiltrate the U.S. through the nation’s southern border.
2. Scott Brown: Ebola-infected terrorists could come through Mexico. During his failed bid for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, Scott Brown said on Oct. 14 that it would be “naïve” not to consider that Ebola-infected terrorists could enter through the country’s southern border.
“We have a border that’s so porous that anyone can walk across it,” said Brown, a former Massachusetts senator, during an interview with New Hampshire radio station WGIR. “I think it’s naïve to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those type of diseases and, or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border. It’s outrageous.”
Experts have said it’s highly unlikely that Ebola could come across the U.S.-Mexico border, pointing to the fact that there have not been cases in Central America and that it would not be very effective as a biological weapon.
3. Elizabeth Lauten: Obama’s daughters should ‘show a little class.’ The communications director for Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee came under fire in November after criticizing the president’s teenage daughters following their appearance at the annual turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House. She said Malia and Sasha Obama should show “a little class” and that they should “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar.”
Lauten eventually apologized and has since resigned.
4. Donald Sterling: Don’t bring black people to my games. It was the audio recording that rocked the sports world. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was eventually forced out after TMZ released audio of Sterling making racist comments to his girlfriend, Vivian Stiviano. Sterling was heard telling Stiviano that he didn’t want her associating with black people or bringing them to the games. Comments included, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” and “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it … and not to bring them to my games.”
The team was sold in August to ex-Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
5. Scott Rudin, Amy Pascal: I know exactly what kind of movies Obama likes. Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures Entertainment chair Amy Pascal were criticized after their racially insensitive remarks about the president were made public by hackers. In the emails, the two speculated what movies Obama liked, only naming movies prominently featuring black people, including “12 Years a Slave,” “Django Unchained,” “The Butler” and the films of actor Kevin Hart. Pascal and Rudin later apologized.
6. Peter King: Eric Garner would be alive if he weren’t obese. After news broke that a Staten Island grand jury decided it would not indict a police officer for the chokehold death of unarmed man Eric Garner, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York raised eyebrows when he argued Garner would not have died if he hadn’t been so obese.
“If he’d not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this,” said King on CNN. “The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition.” The NYPD banned using chokeholds as a tactic in 1994. King also referenced Garner repeating “I can’t breathe,” saying, “The fact of the matter is, if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk.”
7. Cliven Bundy: Black people may have been ‘better off as slaves.’ The Nevada rancher, hailed by many conservatives after he resisted the government’s attempts to remove his cattle from federal lands, landed himself in hot water in April after his controversial remarks about race. He suggested black people were happier during the slavery era compared to now. Several Republican lawmakers immediately sought to distance themselves from Bundy.
8. Bernie Herpin: Maybe it was a ‘good thing’ the Aurora suspect had a high-capacity magazine. Colorado State Sen. Bernie Herpin suggested in April that it was “maybe a good thing” that alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes had a high-capacity magazine when he entered a Colorado movie theater and killed 12 people. “If he had four, five, six 15-round magazines, there’s no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up,” said Herpin. The lawmaker made the argument in February during hearing on a bill that would have repealed a state ban on high-capacity magazines that holds more than 15 rounds. Several lawmakers and family of victims killed in the shootings immediately criticized Herpin’s remarks.
9. Michelle Duggar: Your daughters are in danger. The matriarch of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” helped score a victory in December against LGBT rights with lobbying efforts that helped overturn an anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The measure, which was later overturned, prohibited discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of several categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Duggar made a series of robocalls. The ordinance, among other things, allowed trans men and women to use bathrooms of their adopted gender. Duggar falsely claimed, however, that “males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”