Everybody loves a scandal, barring the people embroiled in one, of course. The rest of us absolutely cannot get enough. Whether you admit it or not, few things make you feel better about yourself quite as intensely as seeing the people that society places on the highest of pedestals get knocked off of them in spectacular fashion.
Just like anything else, there are limits to what we'll put up with. You're not going to see anyone lobbying to have O.J. Simpson mentioned more frequently during USC broadcasts anytime soon. That ship has sailed. But he's also one of the most extreme examples. More often than not, celebrities dip to lows that a rational person would expect (or hope) they'd never recover from and, somehow, claw their way back into our good graces. For example ...
#4. Rush Limbaugh
In 2003, a woman named Wilma Cline strolled into a Florida police station and handed over evidence that Rush Limbaugh, America's holier-than-thou king of political talk radio buffoonery, was buying hillbilly heroin on the black market. The evidence came in the form of emails and answering machine messages from Limbaugh asking Cline to sell him large quantities of drugs, which she totally did several times, according to her own admission. I'm guessing she came forward to clear her conscience and then filled the hole left by that now absent guilt with the piles of money she was paid by the National Enquirer for telling her story to them also.
Pictured: 1 of 8 stories they've been correct about.
Naturally, when someone comes forward with evidence that they have access to large stocks of pills and are selling them to anyone who knows them well enough to ask, your next course of action is to focus all of your time and energy on just one person that they sold to. Why cut off the snake's head when it's so much fun watching that tail grow back every time, you know? So, with their priorities appropriately out of order, Wilma Cline was given immunity, and authorities launched a three-year investigation that culminated in ... Rush Limbaugh having all charges dropped in exchange for going to rehab.
Way to keep us safe, law enforcement community of Florida!
Why It Should Have Destroyed Him
Prior to 2003, the war on drugs and its various casualties were a target that Rush Limbaugh set his sights on regularly. He built his career on lecturing those who lived outside his rigid moral code. This drug scandal was a fundamental breach of the informal contract Rush Limbaugh had with his audience. His days as a morally superior blowhard should have come to an end the moment he had to go on the air and admit to his legions of rabid fans that he was a drug-using, law-breaking criminal, just like those people he spoke out against so vehemently. Relatively speaking, it's kind of like the guy who speaks out against gay marriage and eventually gets caught in an airport bathroom stall blowing some random dude. You just can't trust his gay hate for a single second after that, right? Right. That was a fantastic analogy.
Just doing my job, folks.
Why It Didn't
Rush Limbaugh survived his drug scandal because the people who listen to him are not doing so because they're seeking the truth. People turn to Rush Limbaugh when they need a mouthpiece for all of the sexist/racist/homophobic thoughts that they wouldn't dare give voice to while in the company of friends or colleagues. In a time when calling every woman you see "sweetheart" and assuming that every person of color is "the help" is frowned upon, listening to Rush Limbaugh is like a secret confirmation that you've planted your flag firmly on the side of the bigot. It might not be popular to tell people that anymore, but listening to someone who at least pretends to feel that way too is still all the rage in some circles. We have entire television news networks dedicated to it these days.
Rush Limbaugh knows better than anyone that telling people they aren't assholes for being total assholes is a service that's scandal-proof.
#3. Chris Brown
I know, you're probably reading this right now thinking "Wait, there was a scandal involving Chris Brown? I've heard nothing of this!" So let me be the first to tell you ... Chris Brown punched Rihanna. In the face. Hard. A lot of times.
The fact that the beating took place the night before both stars were set to perform at the 2009 Grammy Awards, along with Brown's arrest on felony charges and the brutal images of Rhianna's battered face, led to an immediate and intense media circus. Overnight, Chris Brown went from squeaky clean Wrigley's gum and milk spokesperson to the most reviled man in music.
"Chris builds strong muscles by drinking milk, then uses them to blast broads in the face!"
It seemed as if he had maybe another month or two on the entertainment planet before he finally departed in the same rocket that took Vanilla Ice to wherever he's been exiled to for the beating he gave the good name of rap music.
Why It Should Have Destroyed Him
"Don't hit women" is like a basic principle of male behavior. Those who don't abide by it are rightfully outcast as a lower form of person. And that's just when a regular dude hits a regular woman. But we're talking about a pop princess who was signed by Jay-Z here (I mean Rihanna, by the way).
You don't care what this caption says.
She's got millions of fans and lots of people within the industry who depend on her well-being to put food on their tables. In no time, rumors spread that Jay-Z himself guaranteed that Chris Brown was done in the music business. Nobody had any reason to doubt that was true.
Why It Didn't
Damn if we weren't wrong about that! Chris Brown stayed out of the public eye approximately as long as it took to record a new album. He then released that album, released a bunch of videos and went on tour, because when life hands you a reputation as a woman beater who deserves to hide in shame for the rest of his days, you just fucking punch that in the face too and carry on, apparently.
And gradually, people fell for it. Before long, Chris Brown was doing talk shows and performing on award shows and even winning awards. Sure, pockets of resistance still pop up on the Internet, and he's even dumb enough to try and respond to them sometimes, but when it comes to the career of Chris Brown, for all intents and purposes, the Rihanna incident might as well have never happened.
And if you're still holding out hope that Chris Brown will somehow suffer a fatal blow to his singing career as a result of his unsavory treatment of Rihanna, I regret to inform you that the exact opposite thing is about to happen. Rihanna's most recent album, Unapologetic, includes a song called "Nobody's Business" that features, on co-lead vocals, you guessed it, Chris Brown. And if recent news reports are correct, it's going to be her next single.
Ike Turner would be proud.