Special Report

The 24 Biggest Scandals Last Year

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Last week, Donald Trump became the first current or former U.S. president to be charged with a crime. Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan grand jury appears to be tied to hush money Trump allegedly paid to Stormy Daniels during his 2020 presidential campaign. For a president that was no stranger to controversies and legal intrigue, this is just the latest scandal tied to his name. (See the most and least effective presidents, according to historians.)

There has been no shortage of scandals this past year. Individuals, companies, and governments were involved in a range of controversies related to what they said and did.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed news stories to identify the top 24 scandals of 2022. We placed a particular emphasis on celebrities, sports, politics, and corporate scandals, listing them in no particular order. 

There are more political scandals on the list than any other type. Politicians from across the political spectrum were involved in controversies and scandals, as were political institutions. A landmark Supreme Court decision regarding abortion rights was leaked. The FBI, meanwhile, conducted a search of former President Donald Trump residence at Mar-a-Lago. (see what every president did after leaving the White House).

In the world of sports – crossing over to the world of politics – there have been questions and allegations of foul play ever since Qatar won its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Since then, other controversies surfaced, specifically human rights abuses regarding conditions of migrant workers who built the stadiums for the events and LGBTQ rights. (These are the most disliked leaders in the world)

Multiple celebrities were also involved in scandals, often through comments they made or actions they took. Some, like Will Smith, apologized, while others, like Kanye West, have yet to express any regret.

Several corporations got in hot water for business decisions they made. Cryptocurrency trading platform FTX suddenly collapsed with allegations of fraud and ongoing investigations. Fashion house Balenciaga managed to very rapidly torpedo its brand with a horrendous ad campaign. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has been chaotic, and no one is quite sure what is next for the platform. (Scandals that cost companies billions in fines)

There have also been several scandals related to COVID-19 restrictions and pandemic financial aid, in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Athletes, too, found themselves in the spotlight. Some were sports related, like star football player Antonio Brown’s dramatic exit from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (yes, that was this year), while others, like WNBA superstar Brittney Griner’s arrest in Russia and Tom Brady’s marital problems, less so.

All of these stories have been constantly discussed in the media and beyond, for better or worse.

Click here to see the biggest scandals of 2022.

Source: Leon Bennett / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

1. Kanye West’s antisemitic comments
> When it happened: Ongoing

Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, has been no stranger to controversy over the years, seemingly escalating the outlandishness and offensiveness of his rhetoric every time he finds himself in the news. In October, Ye made several antisemitic comments on Twitter and Instagram, including a post that said “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” Both platforms blocked him.

Most recently, the rapper joined a meeting with former President Donald Trump and white nationalist and antisemite Nick Fuentes. He also went on conspiracy theory talk show “InfoWars” and stated that he admires Hitler. So far, Ye has not apologized.

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Source: John Phillips / Stringer / Getty Images

2. Depp wins defamation suit
> When it happened: April – June

Actor Amber Heard published in 2018 an op-ed in the Washington Post that discussed domestic abuse she had experienced. While she did not name her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp, he was insinuated as an abuser. Depp proceeded to file a defamation suit against Heard in 2019, claiming she was not the victim of abuse but rather the perpetrator.

The defamation trial brought the couple’s rocky relationship into the spotlight and ended with Depp being awarded $5 million in punitive damages and $10 million in compensatory damage. Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages in her counterclaim and nothing in punitive damages. Depp said, “the jury gave me my life back,” while Heard said she was “heartbroken” by the decision.

Source: Sean Rayford / Getty Images News via Getty Images

3. Herschel Walker faces assault, abortion, and infidelity accusations
> When it happened: Ongoing

Republican Senate candidate from Georgia, Herschel Walker, was recently defeated by incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. Walker said he stands for traditional family values and is staunchly opposing abortion. Two women, however, accused him of forcing them to have abortions as well as paying for the abortions. A number of women also accused him of violence, infidelity, and manipulation.

Source: Handout / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

4. Gov. Ron DeSantis vs. Disney
> When it happened: September

In March 2022, the state of Florida passed the controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law bans lower-age elementary school teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.

After pressure from Disney employees, Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized the bill and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. In response, DeSantis signed a bill that will dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek governing district, which gave Disney governing control of things like power, sewage, roads, and more in the area in and around Disney World.

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Source: Jack Taylor / Getty Images News via Getty Images

5. Boris Johnson’s partygate
> When it happened: July

In November 2021, allegations began to surface about several parties that officials held in British government offices during the strict 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. “Partygate” investigation findings were published in May 2022 and alleged that then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had attended 16 gatherings at his home and office during lockdowns. The revelations, along with other controversies, led to his resignation as prime minister in July 2022.

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images News via Getty Images

6. Elon Musk buys Twitter, causes chaos
> When it happened: October

Twitter has been chaotic since billionaire Elon Musk consummated his acquisition of the social media platform at the end of October. Since taking over, Musk and the platform have starred in many headlines, as the verification system was reworked, top advertisers fled, and Musk tweeted, then deleted, a conspiracy theory article about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi.

Recently, released documents revealed that Twitter was suppressing stories that may have been damaging to then presidential candidate Joe Biden. The revelations have caused political outrage, with former President Donald Trump even claiming such actions allow “for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

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Source: Christopher Pike / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

7. Qatar’s World Cup controversies
> When it happened: Ongoing

The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar in November, but has long been a subject of controversy, starting with potential corruption around FIFA’s choice to let Qatar host the cup. In the years leading up to the tournament, there have been several reports about appalling and deadly working conditions for those building stadiums, mostly migrant workers. Further, contracts to sell alcohol at the games were canceled at the last minute, and LGBTQ imagery has been banned.

Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images News via Getty Images

8. FTX’s crypto collapse
> When it happened: Ongoing

Headquartered in the Bahamas, FTX operated a cryptocurrency exchange and crypto hedge fund, run by Sam Bankman-Fried. However, an article by crypto news site CoinDesk that showed the balance sheet of crypto investing firm Alameda Research, also owned by Bankman-Fried, changed the fortunes of FTX, its investors, and Bankman-Fried. The article showed that Alameda was heavily reliant on the price of FTX’s crypto token FTT to keep the investing firm solvent.

This revelation led to investors selling the token en masse, eventually leading to FTX’s bankruptcy and leading allegations of fraud against the firm and Bankman-Fried. The scandal is still unfolding, and Bankman-Fried was recently arrested in the Bahamas at the behest of U.S. authorities.

Source: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

9. Will Smith slaps Chris Rock
> When it happened: March

The Academy Awards audience was stunned when actor Will Smith went on stage and slapped Chris Rock who had just made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The actor has since apologized but has been banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years.

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Source: Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

10. Whoopi Goldberg’s holocaust comments
> When it happened: January

Whoopi Goldberg first made comments about the Holocaust in the talk show “The View,” saying, “It’s not about race. It’s about man’s inhumanity to man.” Then on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” later that night she repeated similar comments. While there are debates about how to define Judaism, the Nazi Germany set out to exterminate the Jews based on racist theories, specifically that the Jewish people are racially inferior. Goldberg later apologized for her comments and was suspended from “The View” for two weeks.

11. Balenciaga’s disturbing ad campaign
> When it happened: Ongoing

Luxury Fashion house Balenciaga was heavily criticized following a recent ad campaign that showed young children holding teddy bears in bondage gear. A separate ad campaign featured a page from a child pornography court ruling United States v. Williams, which criminalized sexualized images of children. The scandal has led to mass boycott of the brand.

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Source: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

12. Antonio Brown takes off shirt, is kicked out off team
> When it happened: January

Star wide receiver Antonio Brown has been connected to numerous controversies over the years and is currently facing domestic abuse charges. In January of 2022, while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brown took off his jersey during the middle of a game and left the field. After the game, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Brown was no longer on the team.

Source: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images News via Getty Images

13. Truckers occupy Canada’s capital; the government responds harshly
> When it happened: January & February

The so-called “Freedom Convoy” was a group of truckers that illegally occupied the streets of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, for three weeks to protest COVID-19 vaccine passports and mandates. The Truckers also blocked bridges to the U.S. in several provinces.

To break up the protest, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to deploy a massive police operation that arrested protestors, removed parked semis, and dismantled blockades.The mandatory inquiry that followed summoned documents and witnesses, including Trudeau, and will provide a report that would also say if the act was appropriately invoked.

Source: Mark Sagliocco / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

14. Alec Baldwin’s Rust shooting
> When it happened: November

While rehearsing a planned scene for the movie “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger of a gun that was thought to be unloaded. The weapon, however, fired and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. There are still many questions surrounding the incidence and who, if any, is to blame. Baldwin has recently filed a law suit against the film’s armorers and prop master.

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Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images News via Getty Images

15. FBI raids Mar-a-Lago
> When it happened: August

On Aug. 8, 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant and raided the residence of former President Donald Trump. The president was believed to be in possession of classified documents from his time in the White House. According to the Presidential Records Act, a president must surrender any records to the Archivist of the United States at the end of a term. Though the FBI found classified records, the unprecedented search created a political firestorm, and the investigation continues to unfold.

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images News via Getty Images

16. Martha’s Vineyard immigrants
> When it happened: September

On Sept. 14, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew a group of 50 immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. It was a political stunt to draw attention to the ongoing immigration crisis at the southern border. The immigrants were misled as to where they were going and told they would have jobs when they arrived. Some immigrants reported they were told they were being flown to Boston.

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Source: Brandon Bell / Getty Images News via Getty Images

17. Roe v. Wade decision leaked
> When it happened: May

The much-awaited decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the case that established abortion as a right, was leaked before the ruling was formally announced. The leak confirmed that the conservative-majority court would overturn the constitutionally protected right to abortion. Since the formal ruling, some states have banned or limited abortion, but no anti-abortion measures won on the midterm ballot. In several states, voters affirmed abortion rights or rejected anti-abortion measures.

Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images News via Getty Images

18. Government gaslighting recession fears
> When it happened: July

Two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth (as measured by gross domestic product) are generally considered to be indicative of recession. The Bureau of Economic Analysis indeed reported negative GDP growth in the first two quarters of 2022, but the Biden administration and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that due to low unemployment and record job growth, the U.S. was not actually in a recession.

Source: Handout / Getty Images News via Getty Images

19. Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan flight
> When it happened: August

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of Democratic members of Congress on a visit to Taiwan. Pelosi was the first House Speaker to visit the country in 25 years and was criticized by politicians on both sides of the aisle for potentially escalating an already tense relationship with China. The trip was condemned by the People’s Republic of China, which maintains Taiwan is part of China and will one day be reconquered. China responded to the visit by increasing military drills in the area.

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Source: Andy Cossins / iStock via Getty Images

20. World chess champion cheating allegations
> When it happened: September

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen accused chess newcomer Hans Nieman of cheating in a match by using a remote activated … massage device, connected to artificial intelligence, which told him how to move. The next time they played, Carlsen protested by resigning shortly after their match started. Nieman has been previously accused of cheating online.

Source: Samuel Corum / Getty Images News via Getty Images

21. BLM’s secret mansion
> When it happened: April

It came to light in April that donations sent to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation were used to purchase a $6 million mansion in Southern California. While Black Lives Matter is a decentralized civil rights movement, BLMGFN is a separate and autonomous entity that is run by various people, according to the investigative journalist who exposed the matter. One of the organization’s founders, Patrisse Cullors, defended the purchase, saying the house could be used as a space for Black creatives and as a safehouse for activists facing death threats.

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Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

22. Tom Brady divorce
> When it happened: October

In early 2022, 45-year-old NFL quarterback Tom Brady announced that he would be retiring after the end of the season. However, less than two months later he reversed that decision and decided to keep playing. On Oct. 28, Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, announced they finalized their divorce amidst speculation that Brady’s decision to keep playing led to the breakup.

Source: flyparade / iStock via Getty Images

23. Mass COVID-19 relief fund fraud
> When it happened: Ongoing

The U.S. Secret Service has estimates that $100 billion was obtained illegally from the COVID-19 relief programs. Other experts estimate the fraud could amount to $400 billion or more. These programs include the Paycheck Protection Program and unemployment relief program. These fraudulent funds were allegedly used to buy all sorts of luxury goods such as vacation homes, Ferraris and Rolexes. The investigations are ongoing and new charges continue to be filed.

Source: Mike Mattina / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

24. Russia arrests WNBA superstar Brittney Griner
> When it happened: February

On Feb. 17, a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, officials arrested WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner at Moscow’s international airport on allegations of drug smuggling. Griner, who was traveling to play in her seventh season with UMMC Ekaterinburg, had vape cartridges containing hashish oil, they said.

Though the U.S. State Department considered Griner to be “wrongfully detained,” the basketball star pleaded guilty to bringing the cartridges into the country and was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined about $16,300. After being detained for 10 months, Griner was released in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

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