The Worst People of 2020

There were plenty to choose from.

This would have been a wretched year even if you spent it with human saints. The pandemic, fires, death, pain, so, so many lawyers … 2020 was going to be a tough sit regardless of your company. But some people made it so much worse than it had to be.

Thus, today, to close out the year, we look at the Worst People of 2020. These are the ones who brought out the worst in us and themselves, the people who made this difficult year even harder. Even through all this, I do believe that most people are, deep down, inherently good. (They just can’t get out of their way sometimes.) But not these people. These people are bad.

One note on this: I decided, when I made this list, not to include anyone who would be happy to be on it. The last decade has brought out a new ilk of terrible, the people who are purposely terrible so that they can get attention, the people whose public lives exist solely to get on lists like this one. The ones who will pretend Covid isn’t real not because they actually believe that, but because they’re appealing to the base instincts of fear and anxiety so that they might personally profit from them. I will not reward their trolling here. You have to be legitimately loathsome here, not just play-acting loathsome. Even if those two things are increasingly indistinguishable from each other.

But here are they are. Here are the worst.

Jared Kushner

Everybody has their least favorite person in Trumpland: It’s Ivanka for some, Guiliani for others, and you can never go wrong with Stephen Miller. But for my money, it’s Jared who takes the taco. There is just something uniquely infuriating about a guy who was born with millions and has never had to struggle or worry a day in his life, say, telling LeBron James (who is as close to a rags-to-riches story as you will find in American life, and who has continued to pay it forward as his influence has grown and expanded) and NBA players that their protest was a “day off work.” And that’s probably only one of the top 40 most head-banging-against-wall moments for Jared this year. But the worst part is now that it’s over, now that the gig is up, he’s going to try to get back to his old life of being a New Yorker “socialite” (which is not a job, by the way) and is in fact already trying to quietly separate himself from his father-in-law. Good luck with that. In a just world, we’ll never have to hear Jared’s voice again. Though if we do, remember, this is how he should sound:

J.K. Rowling

This is the biggest bummer on this list. After all, our childhood flights of imagination and wonder aren’t tied up to anyone else represented here, unless you had a different childhood experience with Jared Kushner than the rest of us. We will always love the Harry Potter books — the original seven, not those weird offshoots and definitely not those terrible Johnny Depp movies — but Rowling keeps making it harder with every public statement she makes. This fantastic Molly Fischer piece in The Cut makes the sad case that Rowling has lost touch with what connected her with her fans in the first place, and how she’s slowly dismantling her own legacy every day. Writing this one made me sad, so let’s move on.

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling was a great pitcher. If I had a vote — I don’t, thank heavens; dopey writers should never be trusted with such an important job — I would vote for him for the Hall of Fame. But he has become such an insufferable boor on social media (defending Steve Bannon and Thom Brennaman, calling for the execution of journalists, constant conspiracy mongering, inevitable “voter fraud!” carnival barker) that he’s actually hurting his case for Cooperstown. Not because he has become a bad pitcher. But because he’s so awful that it actively hurts to say anything positive about him at all. All the momentum was pointing in Schilling’s direction for the Hall of Fame. But he just … couldn’t … stop … talking.

Mark Zuckerberg

Remember a few years ago, when Zuckerberg went on a pseudo-“listening tour” as a test balloon for a presidential run? It’s fair to say that didn’t work out well: The Facebook CEO is legitimately in the running for the most universally loathed non-politician in American life … and he’s only 36! He has so much time left! As he quickly dismantles democracy as a concept of life in the 21st century, he hoovers up every dime left in a dying media industry and runs his Doomsday Machine like he’s an old oil baron. In 50 years, someone’s going to make a There Will Be Blood about him.

Donald Trump

I mean, he’s obviously the winner. But it will all be over soon. And it will all be over soon. We’ve almost made it. We really don’t have to think about this guy at all, again, in about 22 days. Remember: This is a human being so awful you need an Atrocity Key just to chronicle it all.

I will not miss the pandemic when it is over in 2021. But I might not miss Trump when he is over in 2021 even more. 2021 will be better. It can’t not be.

Will Leitch writes multiple pieces a week for Medium. Make sure to follow him right here. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel “How Lucky,” released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.

Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

Thanks to Brendan Vaughan

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