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As We See It

Rounding up 10 stories that left a mark in 2012, from Broadwell to Lochte

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I wish I could quite you, Tan Mom.
Photo: Dan Callister/Rex Features

Barack Obama. Bill Gates. The Pope. They’re Nos. 1, 4 and 5 on Forbes’ Most Powerful list this year. It also includes the heads of a drug cartel and a sports federation, because Forbes understands the definition of power: “ability to act or produce an effect.”

Given that definition, there’s room for an addendum. What about the cheater, the redneck and the shameless douche, whose viral shenanigans spawned debates and some seriously merciless tweets? Whether they had any real impact, these stories had an effect.

10. Jonah Lehrer, for faking it One day he’s a celebrated journalist; the next he’s exposed for plagiarizing himself and others and putting words in Bob Dylan’s mouth. You make it to The New Yorker masthead, you definitely know better.

9. NFL replacement refs, for sucking During a contract-dispute lockout, the subs made calls so bad they even messed with Vegas betting lines. But the Seahawks have them to thank for that “win” against the Packers, and the real refs have them to thank for that standing ovation.

8. Patricia Krentcil, for going extra crispy New Jersey tanning addiction peaked with “Tan Mom,” accused of taking her 6-year-old into the tanning bed and obviously guilty of abusing it herself, to the point of looking like Magic Shell. She’s less tan now, and reportedly working on her own line of skin cream.

Can you say Jeah? Jeah you can.

Can you say Jeah? Jeah you can.

7. Paula Broadwell & David Petraeus, for redefining “running buddy” This year was about judging the writer and the four-star general/former CIA director, who resigned after their extramarital affair was exposed. Maybe next year will be about whether Julia Roberts is too old to play Broadwell in a Lifetime movie.

6. Mama June, for “sketti” I knew ketchup and butter belonged together. I just didn’t know to microwave them into a pasta sauce. Thanks, Honey Boo Boo and TLC. You make crossing the line look easy.

5. Ryan Lochte, for flying his freak flag Despite the best efforts of NBC’s schmaltzy Olympics coverage, the swimmer came off entirely as himself. He tweets un-ironically about burritos. He wears self-referential shirts. And in the face of criticism, he keeps smiling and saying “Jeah!” Face it. He’s America.

4. Lance Armstrong, for going down hard The Tour de France legend was branded a cheater, stripped of his titles and banned from pro cycling for life. But pro cycling has a reputation for rampant doping ... Isn’t the best cheater still the best?

3. Paul Ryan, for that workout pictorial A friend saw the VP hopeful’s iron-pumping Time spread and Photoshopped a propeller beanie onto his head. It looked real.

2. Clint Eastwood, for that chair Whatever his motive, the actor made the Republican National Convention a lot more interesting.

1. Canadian Santa, for being mean First, a disgruntled man runs through a holiday parade yelling that Santa doesn’t exist. Then Santa himself gets fired for telling a kid that his favorite hockey team sucks. So much for things being better in Canada.

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Erin Ryan

Erin got her first newspaper job in 2002 thanks to a campfire story about Bigfoot. In her award-winning work for ...

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