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10 Moments That Hooked Us in 2011

The year 2011 was the year the 7-second TV delay failed miserably, that members of Congress behaved badly and Weiner headlines became something of an art form. Today we’ve pooled our wisdom into another annoying year-end list, although we hope ours will hold your interest. We’ve picked the moments that stood out most in our minds and the journalists who made them happen. Here’s to you CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for gracefully using the word “underwear” on television and to you, TIME‘s Mark Halperin, for being baited into calling the President “a dick” live on “Morning Joe.” Ed Schultz also gets points (at least for the purposes of this list) for calling conservative Laura Ingraham a “slut.” And to CBS’s Lara Logan, there are not adequate words to describe her courage.

10. Bret Baier’s journalistic jihad on GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

In November, Fox News anchor Bret Baier sat down with GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It was a hard-hitting interview that saw Romney bristle at several of the questions. When Baier brought up Romney’s penchant for flip-flopping, Romney scolds Baier like a mommy with a 5-year-old and says, “We’re going to have to be better informed about my views on issues.” To Baier’s credit, he continued pounding Romney who kept twisting and turning in his seat. The interview certainly didn’t help Romney. That marked the beginning of a surge for second-tier candidates to make runs at Romney’s frontrunner status. Baier went on The O’Reilly Factor the following day and boasted that after the interview, Romney approached him and called some of the questions “uncalled for” and “overly aggressive.” Calling Bret Baier, a “boy scout” according to Mike Allen, “overly aggressive” is like calling Andrew Breitbart a “serious journalist.” For Baier, let’s stop at fair and mostly balanced and call it a day. — Peter Ogburn

9. The Talented Mr. Nelson Lewis

Nobody is ever going to accuse Washington of being an honest place to work, but Nelson Lewis took things to a whole new level. For starters, Lewis, a former producer for Laura Ingraham‘s radio show, tried to pull off impersonating Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), an old family friend. Police arrested him for “illegal possession of a congressional lapel pin.” If that’s not humiliating enough, NYP‘s Page Six reported that Lewis claimed to be related to former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis. He even went as far as creating a fake email account from Lewis to vouch for him. It didn’t take long for the fake world to come tumbling down around him and he was left with no other option but to admit he had a lying problem. According to Page Six, Lewis checked himself into a treatment center at the beginning of this year to address his problem, which he blamed almost entirely on his former employer, Ingraham! He was led to all this lying because, according to Nelson, “she emasculated me.” Psst….there are whisperings that Lewis is working on a weekly TV program here in Washington. Stay tuned. – Peter Ogburn

8. Politico Reporter Kendra Marr Forced to Resign for Plagiarism

This year saw highs and lows for former Politico Pro transportation reporter Kendra Marr. On one hand, she got engaged in April. On the other, she was essentially fired for insufficiently attributing information to the NYT and other publications in her stories. FishbowlDC broke the story of Marr’s misdeeds in October. At the time, her colleagues said newsroom culture was in large part to blame for Marr’s sloppiness. Politico founders John Harris and Jim VandeHei referred to Marr as “a valued colleague and friend” in a memo explaining what happened. WaPo media reporter Erik Wemple empathized with Marr, writing, “When you combine Politico Pro’s pressure for originality with Politico Regular’s factory conditions, you get a force powerful enough to corrupt an otherwise good journalist.” In a recent follow-up, Wemple broke news of a new mentoring program at Politico meant to cultivate young reporters; a system that would have likely benefited Marr. Marr has essentially disappeared. Her Twitter account is still active, but she hasn’t tweeted to her 2,600 followers since the day the story of her indiscretions broke on Oct. 13. We couldn’t find a Facebook account under her name. Her LinkedIn page says she still works at Politico. Her former colleagues aren’t talking. And, perhaps most biting, the initial Google suggestion you get when searching her name is “Kendra Marr plagiarism.” — Eddie Scarry

7. Al Sharpton Lands His Own Show

If the “thrill” running up the leg of Chris Matthews ever had a child, it would be this. Never before in the history of the English language has the line, “Resist we much” been uttered, and we were all the better for it. But with that butchered line, the Reverend Al Sharpton became a television icon. “PoliticsNation,” as it is now called, was in its infancy on MSNBC, replacing the unnamed Cenk Uygur show in the 6 p.m. slot. Uygur never found an audience, it just wasn’t good, it was boring. Off he drifted into obscurity and in stepped the Reverend. Sharpton’s early shows were rough but spirited. It was as though he was allergic to words on the teleprompter. But no flub went viral, they were just laughed at by politicos. Until, that is, on August 9, 2011 when he uttered the now famous line “Resist we much.” The lines are worth reading, but it won’t help you understand what he was trying to say any more than watching the video. Here it is: “Tonight is the measure of whether the country begins in the state of Wisconsin, a national drive to push back or whether we have more to go to build a movement of resistance… BUT RESIST WE MUCH, WE MUST, AND WE WILL MUCH, ABOUT THAT, BE COMMITTED…” Sharpton, who has somehow escaped his incendiary and race-baiting past, eventually found his on-air footing…sort of. He still has a strange relationship with the teleprompter like someone from southern California has with walking on ice, but he’s getting there. His guests adore him in a deeply entertained way few other cable TV hosts can claim. He’s even scored better ratings than the unnamed Uygur show he replaced, but he has a ways to go. Sharpton, who dropped 100 pounds, has vowed never to criticize President Obama, isn’t exactly interested in conveying news as much as advancing an agenda. That makes his show more of a pep rally for progressives than a news program, but at least it has relegated the bloopers (mostly) to facts and not delivery. Still, Al’s attitude and activism fit nicely into MSNBC’s line-up. Take that for what it’s worth. — Piranhamous

6. Bad Boys: Ed Schultz, Mark Halperin, David Shuster all do Dumb Things

Among MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, TIME‘s Mark Halperin and Current TV’s David Shuster, it’s tough to proclaim who behaved like the biggest idiot this year. While Schultz called conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham “a slut” and got suspended for it, Halperin called the President “kind of a dick” on live TV and Shuster tried to crash an MSNBC party during White House Correspondents’ Assoc. Dinner weekend.  Shuster might have once been invited to such a soirée, but the former MSNBCer was suspended and ultimately let go after saying then-Sen. Hillary Clinton had pimped out her daughter, Chelsea, during her presidential campaign. The network also frowned on his sending a demo tape to CNN for a potential job. Schultz had to perform a humbling and awkward on-air mea culpa. Halperin, it turns out, was goaded into saying the slight by Mika and Joe, who practically drowned viewers in mindless apologies after it happened. When you watch the footage, it’s clear that nerdy Halperin was dying to be part of the in crowd, which perhaps makes his the dumbest act of all. At least Schultz’s insult was as genuine as it was crass and inappropriate. Shuster? One can almost chuckle at his failed party crashing. He’s clearly no Salahi. But he swore up and down that he’d been invited. Somehow party organizers missed that detail such as the one overheard on her walkie talkie saying, “Make sure he doesn’t get in here.” Betsy Rothstein

5. Wolf Grills a Weiner

This past summer, in the days before former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was forced to admit that he had carried on several online relationships of a sexual nature, D.C. journos were having a field day trying to make sense of the Weiner Caper. You’ll remember that Weiner accidentally tweeted a picture of (ahem) enlarged boxer shorts. But, who was it? Weiner initially claimed that it was nothing more than a “prank.” He then spent the next several days flailing wildly trying to explain away the offending picture. Which brings us to this exquisite moment from CNN Wolf Blitzer.

There it is. Blitzer flashing a money shot to a U.S. congressman asking him, “You would know if these were your underpants?” Worse than that, Weiner acted as though he didn’t KNOW if those were his undies. There is not a man alive that wouldn’t recognize his own member. It was only days later that Weiner admitted the picture was of him. (And yes, those were his underpants.) — Peter Ogburn

Luke Grills a Weiner of His Own

An Honorable Mention goes to NBC Congressional Reporter Luke Russert. In the haze of the Weiner scandal, Russert proved that he could pull his own weiner weight at the network. He also obtained a bizarre sit down with Rep. Weiner to chat about the picture of someone’s “below the waist area.” Russert appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to recap his interview and — oops — MSNBC played the wrong package about Weiner’s package and left out the actual interview portion. When they corrected the mistake, we were treated to the first moment that Weiner admitted that he “could not say with certitude” that the picture wasn’t of him.We were also treated to one of those rare relatively unscripted moments when Luke burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all. — Peter Ogburn

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4. Power blogger Ben Smith resigns from Politico

In early November, Politico canned its On Media blog and relaunched Ben Smith’s blog, refocusing it on the intersection of politics and media. A new reporter, Dylan Byers, was even hired to help with Ben Smith‘s new-ish project.One month later, Smith announced he’s leaving Politico to be the editor of BuzzFeed. The move caught everyone by surprise for sure. After all, Smith made his name the last seven years reporting on political news, not BuzzFeed material like dogs dressed as pigs and “Shit Girls Say.” But, as he wrote in the announcement on his blog, “…I won’t stop writing or thinking about politics. In fact I’ll continue to write once weekly for POLITICO…” And he told Howard Kurtz on CNN’s Reliable Sources, “In politics, as in other areas, we’re going to hire some great reporters and turn them loose.” We shot Smith several questions. He wouldn’t answer all of them (like whether anyone was pissed that he’s leaving Politico just after his blog was relaunched), but he did tell us his official start date at BuzzFeed is Jan. 1. He said it’ll be the first time he’s back to working in an actual office in a while (“I currently work in a shared office space in Brooklyn, which I love, but also always enjoyed working out of the newsroom when I was in Washington or, pre-Politico, in New York.”) And he’s thinking of switching out his current Twitter profile picture — the official Politico cartoon of him — for “one of those Ben from BuzzFeed memes.” We’ve picked one for him. See here. Congratulations to Smith — we wish him well in his transition. — Eddie Scarry

3. Andrew Breitbart’s “Balls of Steel”

Remember “Abs of Steel”? The workout tape most famous for setting the Guinness World Record for VHS tape with the most dust collected without ever having been played? Well forget it, we have a new “of steel” winner this year – Andrew Breitbart and his “Balls of Steel.” Breitbart shell-shocked the media by hijacking the Manhattan press conference at which now former Rep. Weiner was set to resign. Every news junkie waited patiently for Weiner to show up to the presser he called, but he was running late. Breitbart, who coincidentally was in the neighborhood, heard about it and went to the hotel. Reporters mobbed him, as he was the man who broke the original “sexting” story. When WCBS reporter Marcia Kramer told him he should go to the still unoccupied podium, what happened next was among the most surreal moments in politics of the year. The cherry on top was when Weiner eventually showed up and apologized to Breitbart for implying Andrew had “hacked” his Twitter account. It was something Salon’s Joan Walsh and too many TV personalities have yet to do for insinuating the same thing. In the end, Weiner was out, Breitbart was in and most of the media, who had ignored the story for as long as they could, had egg on their collective face. Breitbart “crashing” Weiner’s press conference was one of the ballsiest, unforgettable moments of the year. While the world probably could have lived without Opie & Anthony leaking the “money-shot” picture from Breitbart’s cell phone, more than those images were seared into our memories from that story. Bravo, Breitbart. — Piranhamous

2. Greta Goes Apesh&t on Tucker

When a longtime friendship goes sour online, it’s something to watch. When it happens on live TV, you’re on pins and needles. If you’ve ever spent time with Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson, you know he’s first to laugh, crack jokes and understand another person’s point of view even if he abhors it. After The Daily Caller published a story in the fall reporting lewd comments Mike Tyson had made on a radio show — he referred to a sex act with the former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as “a womb shifter” — FNC’s Greta Van Susteren went ballistic and called Carlson “a pig.” Wait a second — wasn’t Tyson the pig? To be sure, Greta is nuts for Palin. The former Gov. attended the White House Correspondents’ Assoc. Dinner parties as her guest and has appeared on her show multiple times. On her Gretawire blog, the host blathered on about Carlson’s sexism. She put a dent in their friendship by attacking him personally. She questioned how he ran the story with a wife and daughters. She said his female employees must be upset. She insisted that his publication must be doing so poorly for him to publish the story. Ultimately she invited him on her program, and he accepted. This is when a seriously pissed off Carlson showed up and coolly put Greta in her place. But not without a showdown. There were no smiles. No jokes. The friendship is not in enemy territory, but it’s certainly not as warm as it once was. Betsy Rothstein

1. Lara Logan Offers an Interview to 60 Minutes

Of all the moments of 2011, by far the bravest came when CBS’s Lara Logan gave an on-air interview to CBS’s Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes.” She boldly went on TV in early May and spoke of the attack and rape that happened to her in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “It looks like a party,” she said, slowly describing the scene for Pelley. …”It was impossible to not get caught up in the moment.” But soon there was a savage mob scene and things spiraled out of control. “For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands,” she said. “Suddenly, before I even know what’s happening, I feel hands grabbing my breasts, grabbing my crotch, grabbing me from behind.” Logan didn’t think she’d survive it. Eventually she was saved by Egyptian women in the square who closed ranks around her until she reached safety. Watch a clip of the “60 Minutes” segment with Logan here. But get the tissues. You’re going to need them. — Betsy Rothstein

 

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