The 24-hour news cycle often means that we're onto the next scandal before the first bad guy can even be fitted for his unflatteringly striped jumpsuit. Still, every now and then, real life manages a satisfying narrative arc. You'll probably remember these famous scandals, but you might have missed their crowd-pleasing twists deep in the middle of Act Three.
Back in 2007, NFL star Michael Vick was jailed for not nearly long enough for crimes against puppies. These days, he campaigns against animal cruelty. Maybe ghosts appeared on Christmas Eve to show a parade of pitbulls raising a leg to piss on his lonely grave, or maybe he's just trying to repair his image. Frankly, it doesn't matter: The really satisfying story is what happened to the 51 dogs rescued from his Virginia property at a time when such dogs were assumed too dangerous to be rehomed. Even the Humane Society thought fighting dogs should be euthanized, and in any other case, they probably would have been. The Vick bust was a huge story, though, and the public demanded to know what would happen to those dogs. A lie about a lovely farm upstate wouldn't have fooled them, so a judge invited the ASPCA to assess the dogs' temperaments. Thank your deity of choice that you will likely never have to prove you're nice enough to live.
The experts feared they'd meet hell-beasts with thousand-yard-stares and a hankering for toddler flesh. If just a few could be saved, they'd call it a win, so they must have done a victory lap featuring a rousing rendition of "We Are The Champions" when it turned out that 47 would need nothing more than some gentle rehab to become productive members of society. Some even found jobs as therapy animals as well as badass names, like Jonny Justice here. He helped little kids learn to read.
Others became agility champions or friendly front-dogs for shelters. Many of them passed the AKC's Canine Good Citizen Test, meaning they can navigate social situations with "no sign of shyness or resentment," which makes them better-adjusted than most humans.
In fact, the "Vicktory Dogs" became such famously good boys that lawmakers began to rethink the treatment of ex-fighting dogs entirely. With those slobbery grins all over TV, states including California and Florida ditched the rule of "kill 'em all and let God scritch the ears of his own" and started assessing ex-fighters to see if they could be adopted. According to animal welfare groups, Vick's dogs were "game-changers" that saved countless pups from a premature death. OK, so no one's exactly thanking the Cruella de Vil of quarterbacks for his influence, but it's hard to think of a better epilogue to a story about doggos like these.
In 2016, a horrific legal outrage was thrust into the spotlight when a sexual assault survivor published her victim impact statement, believing (correctly, it turns out) that Buzzfeed was a better instrument of justice than the court system. The perpetrator, 19-year-old Stanford student Brock Turner, was convicted of the attack, but judge Michael Aaron Persky sentenced him to only six months behind bars, explaining that "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him." Turner ended up serving only three months for good behavior. The Internet reacted accordingly.
In fact, voters in Perksy's district were so appalled by the story that they triggered a special recall election that hadn't been used since 1932, and Persky was removed from the bench in 2018. Ever concerned for the welfare of young athletes, Persky lost a short-lived gig coaching girls' tennis at a Bay Area high school just shortly thereafter when administrators realized he was that Michael Aaron Persky. Before the end of the year, Persky was sending emails to campaign donors asking for help with debt he incurred fighting the recall, which is the political-professional way of mass-texting a crying emoji because you're grounded.
Turner has famously had difficulty finding a job and now works for just above minimum wage near his hometown in southern Ohio. That makes sense for someone who can only list "Some College" in the education section of a job application, but it's gonna be weird to see exactly how low a judge in northern California can fall.
If you ask the worst people on the internet, 20 kids and six adults weren't really murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. The mass shooting was, according to these terrible people, a hoax, and all those grieving parents were just "crisis actors" in an elaborate yet wildly unsuccessful plot to pass gun control laws. For every hardcore conspiracist, plenty more people shared the theory because they were "just asking questions." Unfortunately, none of those questions were "What the fuck is wrong with me?"
It wasn't a great time for the parents of the victims, who were already having just the least-good time a parent can have. Eventually, one father named Lenny Pozner (hey, we know that guy!) decided enough was enough. He formed the HONR Network to scrub the worst of the abuse from social media, which it's been pretty successful at doing, but lately, Pozner and other parents have adopted a more proactive strategy: Lawyer up and sue the ever-loving balls off of their persecutors. We are beyond delighted to report that, in the best ways imaginable, it's working.
Of course, the First Amendment allows Americans express all the terrible opinions they like without getting thrown in prison. What you can't do, however, is trash someone's reputation with false allegations, which is what James Fetzer and Mike Palecek did when they published Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, a book in which they accused Pozner of faking his six-year-old son's death. Pozner hauled the two sentient skidmarks into court and even submitted a DNA test to prove he was his murdered kid's father. Finally, in October 2019, a jury awarded him a cool $450,000 in damages. We'd say that's a satisfying compromise between the principles of free speech and "talk shit, get hit."
But that's small potatoes. Unlike most conspiracy theories, there's one person at the head of this one, and coincidentally, he happens to be pretty rich. Infowars grifter Alex Jones not only flooded the internet with content like "Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed," he actually shared Lenny Pozner's personal information with his audience, forcing the grieving father to move house a whopping seven times to stay ahead of the death threats. Families have since filed defamation suits in multiple states in a bid to take down the final boss of conspiracy nuts. For what it's worth, Jones now accepts the mass-shooting happened and says he was gripped by a "kind of psychosis" -- apparently, the kind that's suddenly cured by lawsuits.
The trial hasn't even been scheduled yet, but he's already been forced to cough up $100,000 for ignoring court orders. The way things are going, the conspiracy mogul might just find that pissed-off parents are a more dangerous enemy than the Illuminati lizard-people ever were.
The 2010 explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was one of the worst PR disasters ever weathered by a company in an industry that's mostly made of PR disasters. As 11 people were killed and millions of gallons of oil went gushing into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days, the worst oil spill in U.S. history also spawned one of the most awkward apology videos in world history.
Make sure to put your phone behind a sturdy piece of plexiglass before hitting play. You're gonna want to throw shit at this douche-kebab and we want you to feel like it's an option.
Well, it only took nine years, but in late 2019, a concrete plan was established and millions of dollars were pledged to repair the damage caused in the oil spill. Over $200 million will be spent across 18 projects that will help restore the fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and coral that was harmed in the Gulf of Mexico. As "the world's first plan to restore the open ocean and deep-sea environment from a major oil disaster," it will also fund research into strategies that will keep the sea animals and coral safe going forward. The best part is that BP is footing the bill, which is, let's see, carry the one ... about 1% of their value? Man, it's almost like they've got room to put in preventative measures for the future too!
The #MeToo movement marked a turning point in modern history, putting a couple of nails in the coffin of the Rich Men Doing Whatever They Want Age. Since its eruption in late 2017, more than 200 powerful men who were unmasked as prolific harassers and abusers have lost their jobs, and what's made the follow-up altogether sweeter is that many of those jobs have since been filled by women.
For example, Emmy-winning journalist Hoda Kotb took over Matt Lauer's role as leading co-anchor of the Today Show. Her replacement of Lauer annihilated a glass ceiling and replaced it with a record, as Kotb and Savannah Guthrie became the first pair of women to ever anchor the Today Show. They're only the second such duo to ever anchor a U.S. morning show because the speed of progress can be measured in inches per decade, but hey, we'll take it.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Lee replaced John Lasseter as Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios after he was outed as a serial sexual harasser (and here we'd thought that Cars 2 was the worst thing Lasseter ever did). It caps off an inspiring Cinderella story for Lee, who started at Disney by accident after her friend, who was struggling with the script for Wreck-It Ralph, called Lee over to help. Lee was subsequently hired to write and co-direct Frozen, which won her an Oscar and made her the first woman to direct a Disney feature film and indeed any film that made more than $1 billion at the box office. So you can't say she didn't earn it.
These are just a handful of over 100 cases of brilliant but overlooked women rising to power thanks to the falls of terrible men, in industries ranging from film and television to journalism to politics to ... UNICEF? Really? Even UNICEF isn't safe from the criminally creepy? Well. It is now.
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