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Top 10 Career Finishing Scandals

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Susan Faile. One day they’re on top of the world, the next—poof! There’s nothing like a scandal to end a successful career in the public eye. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 career finishing scandals. For this list, we’re including various types of performers, politicians, athletes and other individuals in the spotlight who’ve seen their careers derailed by actions or events deemed morally or legally wrong. Special thanks to our users WatchDogsFan47 and arimazzie for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Susan Faile.

Top 10 Career Finishing Scandals

One day they’re on top of the world, the next—poof! There’s nothing like a scandal to end a successful career in the public eye. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 career finishing scandals.

For this list, we’re including various types of performers, politicians, athletes and other individuals in the spotlight who’ve seen their careers derailed by actions or events deemed morally or legally wrong. However, we’re excluding scandals centering on lengthy trials such as those of O.J. Simpson or Bernie Madoff.

#10: Winona Ryder
Shoplifting (2001)

A-list performers not only make lots of money, they’re often given expensive gifts from clothing and jewelry designers who then get free publicity when stars wear their creations. So, it seemed unlikely that such a celebrity would steal these kinds of items from a department store! This was apparently not the case for Ryder, though, who was arrested on shoplifting charges at the turn of the century and convicted of 3 felonies. Seemingly unstoppable during the ‘90s; post-arrest, the award-winning actor was practically scrubbed from the trailer for “Mr. Deeds,” her 2002 film with Adam Sandler, and her career has been in the slow lane ever since.

#9: Paula Deen
Racist Language (2013)

For years, Paula Deen was the undisputed queen of down-home, Southern cooking, ignoring prevailing health trends that cautioned against the overuse of butter, sugar, cream, and deep fryers. Unfortunately, Deen’s tendency to go against political correctness extended beyond the kitchen; a former employee claimed in a lawsuit that Deen had used racial slurs off-camera. When Deen admitted she had used the N-word in the past and offered a tearful apology, she lost her popular Food Network TV show and the support of several sponsors. Currently, she’s attempting a comeback with her own network.

#8: Milli Vanilli
Lip-Synching (1989-90)

In the era of Auto-Tune and pre-recorded tracks for “live” performances, it could almost be argued that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were just ahead of the curve. But, even though many pop stars benefit from the technological enhancement of their own voices, the voices of this late ‘80s duo belonged to session singers. When it finally came to light that Milan and Pilatus could barely speak English, let alone sing in that language, and that other singers had done the vocals on their album, the deception destroyed what once seemed a very promising career. The men were also stripped of their Grammy Award. Although Morvan eventually achieved moderate success as a musician, Pilatus succumbed to drugs in 1998.

#7: Michael Richards
Racist Rant (2006)

As Cosmo Kramer on “Seinfeld,” Richards seemed goofy and lovable. And for many fans, it was impossible not to associate the actor with the loopy, but harmless character. That all changed in 2006 during a comedy club show when Richards lashed out at hecklers in the audience. While calling them out for their rudeness and loudness was understandable—other comedians have similarly challenged audience members—the situation took an unexpected, and career ending, turn when Richards unleashed a barrage of racial slurs. Though he attempted to publicly apologize, Richards officially retired from performing stand-up comedy in 2007.

#6: Dixie Chicks
George W. Bush Diss (2003)

It was the diss heard around the world. When band member Natalie Maines announced during a London show that the group was ashamed of being from the same state as then-President George W. Bush, the Brits cheered. But once the comment was reported in the media, many American fans seethed. Some country music radio stations banned the Chicks’ music and Maines even received death threats. Boycotts caused the group’s music to plummet in the charts and hurt their sales. Eventually, though, the furor died down enough for the group to win multiple Grammy Awards in 2007.

#5: Anthony Weiner
Sexting (2011, 2013)

It’s normally a positive thing when a politician shows openness regarding modern technology and new methods of communication, such as social media. However, in the case of this former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, there IS such a thing as being too comfortable. Weiner lived up to his name by demonstrating a tendency to overshare photos of his own attributes with women (other than his wife) via Twitter. The sexting scandal caused him to resign from Congress in 2011; however, in 2013, he was allegedly at it again as similar antics killed his mayoral ambitions.

#4: Pete Rose
Gambling (1989)

In 20-plus years as a baseball player, Pete Rose was exceptional: winning multiple World Series championships, numerous awards, including Most Valuable Player, and breaking several Major League records, most notably Ty Cobb’s hit record. After retiring from playing, Rose became a manager. His outstanding career guaranteed induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame—until evidence surfaced that he’d been betting on baseball games during his stint managing the Cincinnati Reds. As a result, Rose was declared permanently ineligible for the Hall of Fame.

#3: Herman Cain
Sexual Harassment & Adultery (2011)

In a crowded field of Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for the 2012 U.S. Presidential elections, Cain stood out for several reasons. Unfortunately, many of the reasons weren’t good. First, there was an advertisement featuring Cain’s Chief of Staff, Mark Block, who apparently got so excited talking about the campaign that he couldn’t finish the commercial without a smoke break. From there, things went further downhill as the aspiring Presidential contender was accused of sexual harassment and adultery. This eventually led to his withdrawal from the race, and politics.

#2: Bill Cosby
Sexual Assault Allegations (2014)

“The Cosby Show” brought him into millions of living rooms as perfect dad Cliff Huxtable. Long before the popular sitcom debuted, Cosby was building his reputation as a family-friendly entertainer, playing a trainer on an earlier TV series and creating the “Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids” cartoon. So, when accusations that he’d previously drugged and sexually assaulted dozens of women started surfacing in 2014, it was shocking. The fallout caused Cosby to cancel some live appearances, and his fatherly reputation is probably irreparably damaged.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Isaiah Washington
Homophobic Remarks (2006)
- Courtney Love
Heroin While Pregnant (circa 1992)
- Rob Ford
Smoking Crack Cocaine (2013)
- Pee-wee Herman
Masturbation & Child Porn Arrests (1991; 2002)

#1: Mel Gibson
Anti-Semitic and Racist Rants (2006-)

In the classic 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day,” the main character lives the same day over and over again. Unfortunately, when it comes to actor Mel Gibson and reports of anti-Semitic vitriol, it sometimes feels like the public has been experiencing their own version of “Groundhog Day” for the past several years. Previously known for his acting talent, leading-man good looks, and ability to sell movie tickets, the American-born Australian actor’s career has increasingly been over-shadowed by incidents highlighting his temper and his vicious—frequently alcohol-fueled—verbal outbursts and anti-Semitic rants.

Do you agree with our list? What career-finishing scandal do you think is the most memorable? For more fascinating Top 10s every day, be sure to subscribe to

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