The Worst People of 2020 (Who Aren’t Trumps)

Seditionists + authoritarians + deniers + shitheads

We’re riding up hard on the ass end of this shit year, which can mean only one thing: listicle season—that glorious time when columnists the world ’round pre-write retrospectives for the final weeks of December and spend the holidays on the sofa chugging whiskey. 

Since 2020 has been a parade of horribles, I figured it fitting to cap it off with a list of the year’s worst people. Okay, technically, the worst Americans, as I’ve excluded the rest of the world. (Apologies to Narendra Modi.) I’ve also ignored the Trumps—Donald, Bloodshot Eyes Don, the Dumb One, Javanka, the Daughter Donald Forgets He Has, Soon-to-Be-Donald’s-Ex, the whole batch—because what’s the point?

I’ve divided our baddies into four groups, as follows:

  • Seditionists: the conspiracy theorists, sore losers, and D-league fascists trying to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

  • Authoritarians: those who weakened the rule of law and used violence to quell anti-racist dissent.

  • Deniers: people whose ignorance, selfishness, political calculations, or science denial made the COVID-19 pandemic worse than it had to be.

  • Shitheads: Every list needs a catchall.

So, without further ado, let’s do this.   

+ Group 1. Seditionists

RUDY GIULIANI. Rudy’s had a tough couple of months: farting out loud in a public hearing, that Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference, the weird hair dye (or maybe mascara?) incident, trying to get it on with Borat’s pretend-daughter, getting hospitalized for COVID, etc. And that’s to say nothing of getting repeatedly humiliated in court, losing lawsuits, and watching his conspiracy theories get debunked. (Honorable mention: Sidney Powell, who filed the quickly dismissed “Kraken” lawsuits, and Melissa Corone, Giuliani’s viral “star” witness in Michigan.)

SEN. RON JOHNSON. First, the Wisconsin senator used his chairmanship of the homeland security committee to try to retroactively justify the Ukrainian coercion that led to Trump’s impeachment. Now, like so many others, he’s publicly undermining Biden’s legitimacy. Here’s what separates Johnson from the rest: In private, he admits that he knows better. But thinks it would be “political suicide” to oppose Trump—an “asshole”—and that matters more.

U.S. REP. MIKE KELLY. After Trump lost Pennsylvania, Kelly sued, arguing that a law Pennsylvania Republicans passed a year ago to extend mail-in voting was unconstitutional, which meant the state Supreme Court needed to throw out all mail-in ballots and declare Trump the state’s winner. Shockingly, this argument didn’t take.

TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL KEN PAXTON. Joined by 18 red-state attorneys general and the 126-member congressional treason caucus, Paxton—who is staring down a federal corruption investigation and could use a pardon—filed what amounts to Trump’s last stand: a petition to the Supreme Court to overturn election results in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia. Paxton didn’t make a legal argument so much as thread together fact errors, debunked conspiracies, constitutional contortions, and an astoundingly stupid mathematical “analysis” into a request that the Court decide that Democratic votes are inherently illegitimate. The right-wing Roberts Court wasn’t interested.  

CHRIS RUDDY. Ruddy owns Newsmax, an increasingly popular cable outlet dedicated to fulfilling MAGA America’s fantasies. This is an unabashedly Trumpian universe in which election fraud is an unquestionable fact and Fox News—whose audience Newsmax is stealing—is the establishment. The best part: Ruddy probably doesn’t believe any of it. He’s nothing but a cynic proudly profiting off the gullible while undermining what’s left of American democracy. (Honorable mention: Herring Networks, which owns One America News, and the far-right Sinclair Broadcasting).

+ Group 2: Authoritarians

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR. Barr’s DOJ dropped charges against Mike Flynn despite his guilty plea. Barr overrode prosecutors on Roger Stone’s sentence. He fearmongered about voting by mail. He opened an investigation into the FBI’s investigation of Russian election interference. His department sought to block Congress from enforcing White House subpoenas. He tried to have the DOJ defend Trump in a lawsuit accusing him of defamation for denying a rape allegation; had the DOJ won, the case would have been dismissed. But his most egregious offense this year: Amid Black Lives Matter protests, Barr personally ordered law enforcement to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square to make way for Trump’s photo-op in front of a church.

DETROIT POLICE CHIEF JAMES CRAIG, NYPD COMMISSIONER DERMOT SHEA: Any of the police chiefs who unleashed their head-stomping cops on BLM protesters would do. But Craig bears special mention because, after protesters sued Detroit when officers collapsed their lungs, fractured their bones, and gave them concussions, his department sued Detroit Will Breathe for “conspiracy.” Shea is list-worthy because his cops planned an assault on protesters in the Black and Latino neighborhood of Mott Haven, which Shea said was “executed nearly flawlessly.”

SEN. TOM COTTON. In June, the Arkansas senator penned a New York Times op-ed— immediately disavowed by almost everyone at the Times—advocating that Trump use the military to quash protests. “Cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa,” he claimed, needed to be crushed by an “overwhelming show of force.” Cotton is a likely 2024 presidential candidate.

DHS “ACTING SECRETARY” CHAD WOLF. For the last year, Wolf has served as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, though a federal judge has ruled he was illegally installed, hampering his efforts to deport Dreamers and block asylum seekers’ access to employment. That didn’t stop him and other DHS officials from allegedly cooking reports on Russian election interference, the border wall, and antifa. Speaking of antifa: In response to Tucker Carlson’s demand that the Trump administration make mass arrests and bring RICO charges, Wolf—who had deployed paramilitary agents in unmarked vans to kidnap protesters—went on Carlson’s program and assured him they were working on it. Barr was “targeting and investigating the heads of” [BLM and antifa] and those “paying for those individuals to move across the country.” That wasn’t a real thing, and the RICO charges never came.

+ Group 3: Deniers

DR. SCOTT ATLAS. Few people provided pseudo-scientific cover for Trump’s sociopathic indifference to the pandemic like Atlas, a radiologist who fell into Trump’s orbit via (what else) appearances on Fox News and eventually became his special COVID adviser by telling Trump what he wanted to hear — herd immunity, open everything, masks don’t work, etc. Atlas had no training in infectious diseases or public health, yet the White House took his quackery seriously. We’ll never know how many people died because of it. 

FLORIDA GOV. RON DESANTIS. Nowhere has DeSantis’s leg-humping obsequiousness toward Donald Trump been more apparent than with the coronavirus, which has killed more than 20,000 of his state’s residents. Following Trump’s lead, DeSantis dismissed the virus’s dangers. His health department stopped talking about it. He forbid local governments from enforcing mask mandates and capacity restrictions. He reopened businesses in early May and boasted of how he’d tamed the pandemic without “draconian orders.” (Two months later, Florida was the virus’s global epicenter.) His minions (allegedly) fired an analyst who refused to manipulate COVID numbers, then the state cops raided her house. He hired an Ohio sports blogger and COVID conspiracy theorist as a data analyst. He blocked newspapers and academics from accessing records and hid federal warnings ahead of Thanksgiving. And I’d be remiss not to mention that DeSantis wants to give the state’s George Zimmermans license to kill anyone they think might vandalize a business. What could go wrong?  

PANDEMIC RESTAURANT DINERS. Sure, you’re fine — you sit outside, respect the waitstaff, tip well, and mask up. But you’re in the minority. A recent survey of hospitality workers in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., not only showed that food service workers are at greater risk of COVID exposure, but 41% noticed a significant change “in the frequency of unwanted sexualized comments from customers,” and 25% said they “have experienced or witnessed” increased sexual harassment. Adding insult to injury, 83% said they’ve seen their tips decline, and 66% said they’ve seen their tips decline by at least half. Folks, this isn’t hard: If you can’t dine out in-person without being a cheapskate superspreader dick, get takeout. 

THE REOPEN ASSHOLES. For a brief moment this spring, we all seemed to understand that this new, unknown virus demanded a serious response despite the economic hardship. The consensus lasted about a month. By late April, the same rich assholes who ginned up the Tea Party were fomenting the ReOpen movement, an astroturf rebellion egged on by the president that aimed to turn a public health crisis into a political opportunity by charging swing-state Democratic governors with tyranny. In North Carolina, some ReOpeners marched through downtown Raleigh with rifles, then went to Subway. In Michigan, heavily armed protesters stormed the Capitol menacing lawmakers. Later, militia members plotted to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

(Honorable mention: Though they cleared the low bar of not facilitating Trump’s coup, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Hatfield refused to ban weapons in the Capitol, with Shirkey calling it “cowardly” to not want to be shot while doing your job. And hours after the kidnapping plot against Whitmer came to light, Shirkey and Hatfield appeared at an anti-Whitmer rally.)

+ Group 4: Shitheads

JEFF BEZOS. More than 20 million Americans are on unemployment assistance, and an eviction crisis looms. But in the first seven months of this national emergency, the net worth of America’s 614 billionaires grew by $931 billion, and none more than Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who added more than $90 billion to his fortune, nearly doubling his wealth. (The U.S. government spends $68 billion a year on food stamps.) At the same time, he hired Pinkerton spies to prevent his low-wage warehouse workers from organizing. Just because Trump hates him doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. 

(Honorable mention: Elon Musk, whose net worth jumped 277% during the pandemic, responded to California’s COVD restrictions by moving to Texas. Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth nearly doubled while his website facilitated right-wing disinformation. And the rich, who should be eaten.)  

U.S. SEN. RICHARD BURR. Being chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee means you know things before everyone else — and if you’re North Carolina’s Richard Burr, a chance to profit from other people’s misery. On Feb. 13, with his committee receiving top-secret coronavirus briefings — and just a few days after Burr co-authored an op-ed assuring Americans that the government had everything under control — Burr dumped up to $1.7 million in stock holdings, most of his net worth; that same day, his brother-in-law unloaded up to $280,000 in stocks. A week later, the market crashed. Burr is now under federal investigation

(Honorable mention: No list would be complete without Mitch McConnell, who broke his own made-up rule to ram through the Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett without blinking at the blinding hypocrisy.) 

PAULA WHITE. It’s only fitting that Donald Trump’s “spiritual adviser” is a private-jet-setting, prosperity-preaching charlatan who loves the Lord almost as much as the donation plate. Paula White earned her place on this list the day after the election when, in a live-streamed service at her Florida church, she babbled incoherently — sorry, “spoke in tongues” — while calling on “angelic reinforcements” to ensure Trump’s “victory.” “I hear a sound of victory,” she said. “The Lord says it is done. For angels have even been dispatched from Africa right now. ... In the name of Jesus from South America, they’re coming here." Guess they got lost. 

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