Forty years ago, when the right wing was first ascendant in this country, the nation was introduced to some exotic characters the likes of whom most of us hadn’t seen before: Jerry Falwell Sr.; Pat Robertson; Newt Gingrich; even people like Illinois Representative Henry Hyde, who at the time seemed about as ideologically extreme as you could get. Surely they couldn’t go any lower than that. Well, here we are 40 years on, and it just gets lower. Some of the Republicans in the House of Representatives today make Henry Hyde look like Hubert Humphrey. And the horrors extend well outside the halls of Congress, to the states and the right-wing media bubble and beyond.
So The New Republic thought the time was right for a stocktaking. Who are the worst of the worst? Who’s the most dangerous senator? Which House member is the biggest threat to democratic order? Which governor is most irresponsibly putting his or her state’s people at risk? Who mounted the most shameless defense of the January 6 insurrection? Which Fox News host is the most despicable? (OK, we probably know that one, so who’s the second-most despicable?) Who’s the most obnoxious and unscrupulous Twitter star? Who’s the most flagrant racist? And, of course, who is the worst Trump? (We know that one, too, so we added a “Second-Worst Trump.”)
A lot of the answers weren’t all that surprising. Some were blowouts. Others were pretty darn close. We show here both readers’ answers and staff answers, so you can see where we were and weren’t in sync. And as you read through this, you’ll remember that, while we need to fear these people, sometimes we need to laugh at them, too.
60% Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
Known for: blocking Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, saying it was too late; elevating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, saying there was plenty of time.
17% Ted Cruz, Texas
Known for: insurrection inciter; Cancún vacationer (as Texans died of Covid-19); universal scorn of colleagues.
10% Ron Johnson, Wisconsin
Known for: being dumbest person in the Senate; defending Capitol rioters as patriots and saying that if they had been from Black Lives Matter, “I might have been a little concerned” for safety—then denying any “racial” element to his comments.
10% Josh Hawley, Missouri
Known for: fist-pumping the January 6 insurrectionists; Ivy League populism; desperate pursuit of presidency.
4% Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Known for: blowing a gasket at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing; sucking up to Trump after lightly criticizing him.
The Worst: Mitch McConnell
Of course it’s old Mitch! How could it have been anyone else? Well, the others are all pretty bad, actually, and any one of them would be a plausible choice for worst. But none is responsible for anywhere near the amount of wreckage over a period of decades as McConnell.
Staff pick: Mitch McConnell
Worst House Member
37% Marjorie Taylor Greene, GA-14
Known for: blaming wildfires on secret Jewish space laser; crazy vaccine lies that forced Twitter suspension.
25% Kevin McCarthy, CA-23, house minority leader
Known for: infamous post–January 6 Mar-a-Lago photo; general oiliness.
22% Jim Jordan, OH-4
Known for: winning a Presidential Medal of Freedom for efforts to stop “witch hunt”; apparent nonownership of any suit jackets.
13% Matt Gaetz, FL-1
Known for: sex-trafficking allegations; unusually obnoxious Trump adoration.
3% Elise Stefanik, NY-21
Known for: abrupt recalculation from savvy Trump distance-keeper to fulsome Trump suck-up.
The Worst: Marjorie Taylor Greene
A bit of an upset here. One could easily argue that McCarthy deserved this one. He is, after all, the minority leader, whose posture toward Trump is one of extreme slavishness, and who has done and will do everything he possibly can to obstruct and interfere with the progress of the House January 6 commission.
But no one pushes our buttons quite like MTG. Around the time the voting closed, she released a bonkers campaign video in which she blows up a Prius (with “socialism” written on the side, natch) with a .50-caliber rifle—just like the one she wants to give away to a lucky raffle winner.
Staff pick: Marjorie Taylor Greene
Worst Insurrection Defender
58% Paul Gosar, AZ-4
Known for: suggesting that “the FBI might have had a hand in planning and carrying out that event”; also tweeted, “This has all the hallmarks of Antifa provocation.”
26% Louie Gohmert, TX-1
Known for: saying, “It wasn’t just right-wing extremists in there.” At a QAnon-affiliated event. With Mike Flynn.
15% Andrew Clyde, GA-9
Known for: saying January 6 looked like a “normal tourist visit.”
2% Brian Mast, FL-18
Known for: saying that the rioters weren’t acting on Trump’s behalf.
The Worst: Paul Gosar
The Vegas smart money was on Clyde here, after his comment shown above, which was a howler. But Gosar’s track record in this realm is indeed formidable.
Staff pick: Paul Gosar
59% Ron DeSantis, Florida
Known for: quasi-homicidal Covid response; making toddler daughter chant, “Build the Wall.”
32% Greg Abbott, Texas
Known for: reactionary voter ID law; reactionary abortion law; trying to arrest state’s Democratic lawmakers.
6% Kristi Noem, South Dakota
Known for: promoting hydroxychloroquine; encouraging superspreader Sturgis motorcycle rallies two years running; bragging about resisting “the call for virus control at the expense of everything else.”
2% Brian Kemp, Georgia
Known for: standing up to Trump during the 2020 election, then turning around and passing repressive voter law that could help Trump win in 2024.
2% Greg Gianforte, Montana
Known for: body-slamming journalist; illegally killing a Yellowstone wolf (seriously).
The Worst: Ron DeSantis
The voting here took place mostly prior to Texas passing that horrific anti-abortion law. Abbott might have won if that had hit the news a month earlier. But DeSantis earned this, as all too many grieving Floridians know all too well.
Staff pick: Greg Abbott
Worst Congressional Officeholder Who May Run for President in 2024
40% Ted Cruz, Texas
Known for: see above, plus recent “Imagine if Obama did that” stunt of showing up to vote in gym clothes.
32% Josh Hawley, Missouri
Known for: see above, plus introducing the “Love America Act” to deny funds to schools that try to teach racial history.
12% Tom Cotton, Arkansas
Known for: general World War III zealotry.
10% Rick Scott, Florida
Known for: Can someone who defrauded Medicare of hundreds of millions of dollars really become president? Uh … yeah.
4% Marco Rubio, Florida
Known for: Grand Canyon–esque gulf between talk and action, like saying, “We need to learn as much as we can” about January 6—then voting against the commission.
2% Ben Sasse, Nebraska
Known for: well-timed Trump criticism that prevents media from reporting on his crazed, right-wing views.
The Worst: Ted Cruz
Remember when there was such a thing as shame, and a senator who was caught flying to Cancún while his constituents were literally dying might have resigned so as not to bring further dishonor upon the world’s greatest deliberative body?
Staff pick: Josh Hawley
Worst Non-Officeholder Who May Run for President in 2024 (Who Isn’t Named Trump)
65% Tucker Carlson
Known for: white supremacism; cable television’s phoniest concern-troll facial expressions.
23% Mike Pompeo
Known for: State Department corruption; doing no right things in the last 30 years.
7% Nikki Haley
Known for: corruption involving Port of Charleston; vitriolic defenses of Netanyahu at the United Nations; too-cute attempts to thread Trump needle.
3% Mike Pence
Known for: doing one right thing in the last 30 years.
1% Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Known for: football; wrestling; Moana; supporting Biden!
The Worst: Tucker Carlson
He actually might run someday. And yes, he could win.
Staff pick: Tucker Carlson
Worst Embarrassing Trump Sycophant, Congressional Division
47% Lindsey Graham
“I said, ‘Mr. President, this MAGA movement needs to continue. We need to unite the party. Trump-plus is the way back in 2022.’” (Fox News Sunday, February 14, 2021)
21% Kevin McCarthy
“President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We can’t allow this to happen before our very eyes.” (The Ingraham Angle, Fox News, November 5, 2020)
15% Jim Jordan
“But our party is led by President Trump. I think that’s good. I hope he runs for office, for the presidency again in 2024.” (Fox News, February 28, 2021)
13% Ted Cruz
“Let me tell you this right now: Donald J. Trump ain’t goin’ anywhere.” (CPAC 2021)
4% Elise Stefanik
“Voters determine the leader of the Republican Party, and President Trump is the leader that they look to. He is an important voice in our Republican Party, and we look forward to working with him.” (news conference, May 14, 2021)
The Worst: Lindsey Graham
Remember how Graham once tweeted: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed......and we will deserve it”? Now he likes to brag about how badly Trump beats him on the golf course.
Staff pick: Lindsey Graham
79% Donald Trump
Known for: fascism; racism; sexism; boredom with Constitution; old-white-man-from-Queens cultural rage.
15% Don Trump Jr.
Known for: fascism; racism; sexism; boredom with Constitution; lacking father’s urbane sophistication.
4% Ivanka Trump
Known for: passionate defense of global women; using White House position to grift for fashion brand until shuttering it in 2018 after slumping sales.
1% Melania Trump
Known for: destruction of Jackie Kennedy’s Rose Garden; ghoulish White House Christmas decorations.
1% Eric Trump
Known for: being the nicer, quieter cheetah-killer.
The Worst: Donald Trump
Well, obviously. But Morticia, Pugsley, and Wednesday are pretty bad news, too.
Staff pick: Donald Trump
Worst Fox News Host
78% Tucker Carlson
Known for: see above, plus nightly assaults on reality like calling U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn an “angry left-wing political activist.”
9% Sean Hannity
Known for: being pissed-off that we now hate Tucker more.
8% Laura Ingraham
Known for: being called an idiot by David Brock, who wrote that she never owned a book; being called “monster” by … wait for it … her brother.
3% Jeanine Pirro
Known for: consistent anti-immigrant racism; Trump’s last-minute pardon for tax-cheat (and Jeanine-cheat!) ex-husband.
2% Maria Bartiromo
Known for: Remember when she was the Money Honey?
The Worst: Tucker Carlson
They’re all such appalling creatures, but this was as no-contest as they come.
Staff pick: Tucker Carlson
Worst Non-Fox Host Media Celebrity
49% Ben Shapiro
Known for: opposing Trump in 2016 but supporting him in 2020; also, just Google “Ben Shapiro Cardi B WAP.”
22% Tomi Lahren
Known for: disparaging “woke Olympics”; “get woke and lose”; final total medal count: U.S. 113, China 88, Russian Olympic Committee 71.
11% Diamond & Silk
Known for: being Democrats as recently as 2012; calling Nancy Pelosi a “nonfunctioning alcoholic” on Fox News, based on doctored video.
9% Ben Domenech
Known for: getting fired from The Washington Post over plagiarism; was paid $36,000 to shill in columns for operatically corrupt government of Malaysia.
9% Chanel Rion
Known for: One America News Network Trump-era White House correspondent; asking Trump if “Chinese food” was a racist phrase (in attempt to exculpate Trump for saying “Chinese virus”); being subject of ridicule by Borat.
The Worst: Ben Shapiro
Be sure to read Ben’s new book, The Authoritarian Moment. Naturally, it’s about ... the left.
Staff pick: Ben Shapiro
Worst Twitter Star
46% Dinesh D’Souza
Known for: losing job over bringing girlfriend, not wife, to evangelical conference; admitting to violating campaign finance laws, whining afterward that Obama was trying to make an example of him; tweeting that perhaps “whole #Charlottesville rally was a staged event.”
33% Candace Owens
Known for: saying that “if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine.”
13% Mike Cernovich
Known for: peddling Pizzagate lie; tweeting in 2013, “Do a Google image search for ‘lions mating.’ That’s basically rape and it’s also the natural form of sex.”
6% Jack Posobiec
Known for: heavy promotion of Seth Rich conspiracies; claim that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was anti-Trump propaganda.
1% CJ Pearson
Known for: child right-wing commentator; brief switch to liberalism, then switch back; falsely claimed Obama blocked him on Twitter.
The Worst: Dinesh D’Souza
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when D’Souza and Laura Ingraham were buddies at Dartmouth. Dartmouth must be so proud.
Staff pick: Mike Cernovich
Worst “Serious” Journalist
36% Ben Shapiro
Known for: trenchant Middle East analysis, like: “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue. #settlementsrock”
30% Entire Wall Street Journal editorial board, especially Kimberley Strassel
Known for: writing anti–Hunter Biden screed that the Journal’s own news division debunked.
18% Hugh Hewitt
Known for: personally lobbying Scott Pruitt, then-chief of the EPA, to fast-track the cleanup of toxic waste near his house, then defending Pruitt on MSNBC multiple times without disclosing it.
12% Bret Stephens
Known for: calling climate change a “mass hysteria phenomenon”; writing column on superior intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews based on a paper whose co-author “promoted racist views.”
3% Lee Smith
Known for: 2019 book, The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History (“Tall at six feet, one inch, a family man, and slow to anger, Nunes is relentless in pursuit”).
The Worst: Ben Shapiro
And speaking of proud, what about Ben’s parents? Their boy is a winner in two categories!
Staff pick: Bret Stephens
Worst Dirtbag White Supremacist
56% Stephen Miller
Known for: architect of Muslim ban; reportedly “enjoys” seeing photos of children suffering at border.
30% Donald Trump
Known for: refusing to rent to Black tenants; birtherism; being an inspiration to the other four contenders.
5% Nick Fuentes
Known for: “jokingly” casting doubt on Holocaust by quoting a viewer who suggested it would be impossible to bake six million cookies in five years.
4% Gavin McInnes
Known for: Proud Boys founder; Crusades defender (“Why don’t we take back Bethlehem? Why don’t we take back Northern Iraq? Why don’t we start our own Crusades? That’s what the Crusades were. They weren’t just someone picking on Muslims for no reason—they were a reaction to Muslim tyranny. We finally fought back.”)
4% Richard Spencer
Known for: saying, after Trump’s election, “Let’s party like it’s 1933”; launching website altright.com in 2017—on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Worst: Stephen Miller
When you get more votes than Donald Trump himself, that’s how you know you’ve really left your mark on the culture.
Staff pick: Stephen Miller
Second-Worst Fox News Host/Frequent Guest
27% Mark Levin
Known for: long history of racism, climate denialism, etc.; source of Trump’s claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.
22% Trey Gowdy
Known for: hackish and failed Benghazi hearings; using taxpayer funds to settle with a former aide fired because aide refused to focus solely on Hillary Clinton.
22% Dan Bongino
Known for: thrice-failed GOP congressional candidate; described by Politico last year as “surprise leader in the right-wing media sweepstakes” to promulgate the Big Lie.
17% Jesse Watters
Known for: Fox’s resident “macho man”; stalked liberals (mainly women) on camera for old boss Bill O’Reilly; seemed to excuse “vigilante justice” in Kenosha.
11% Alex Berenson
Known for: using history as New York Times reporter to build faux-cred for Covid-isn’t-so-bad nonsense he peddles.
The Worst: Mark Levin
Ah, Levin. In his latest “book,” he tries to link the Democratic Party to various Marxian thinkers in history. He reaches for the Frankfurt School. Except he calls it the “Franklin” School. These people make millions of dollars a year.
Staff pick: Jesse Watters
Worst Thrice- (at Least) Married Fascist Family-Values Peddler
35% Donald Trump
Known for: more than two dozen allegations of sexual assault.
23% Newt Gingrich
Known for: boffing third wife while still married to number two and denouncing Bill Clinton as immoral.
20% Rupert Murdoch
Known for: destroying Australia, then the U.K., then the United States. And by the way, did you know that his fourth wife was Mick Jagger’s second?
14% Rush Limbaugh (RIP)
Known for: serial racism and sexism; making housekeeper score his OxyContin.
9% Rudy Giuliani
Known for: marrying his cousin as first wife; screwing around on second wife with soon-to-be third wife (now divorced); announcing separation from wife two to press before he told her.
The Worst: Donald Trump
Certainly, Trump seems like the one who treated his wives worst. Although Rudy, remember, separated from his second wife at a press conference before he told her himself.
Staff pick: Rudy Giuliani
51% Kimberly Guilfoyle
Known for: Don Jr.’s girlfriend; leaving Fox in 2018 after, according to HuffPost, “showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were).”
34% Fred Trump Sr.
Known for: arrest at 1927 KKK rally; subject of Woody Guthrie song denouncing his racist rental practices.
11% Ivana Trump
Known for: being weird enough to marry him first; also, for saying—in 2020—that Donald was doing a “great job” and is “pro everything that I believe in.”
1% Marla Maples
Known for: being weird enough to marry him; that, and “best sex I ever had” (assuming she said it; may have been Donald).
0% Tiffany Trump
Known for: campaigning relentlessly for father; now seeking to have “glamorous and glitzy” wedding, “your basic international spectacle.”
The Worst: Kimberly Guilfoyle
A bit of an upset here. Perhaps Guilfoyle benefited from her lamentable association with Donald Trump Jr. The fact that Gavin Newsom was married to her was almost reason enough to recall him.
Staff pick: Fred Trump Sr.
Worst Embarrassing Trump Sycophant, Non-Congressional Division
46% Rudy Giuliani
Known for: batshit 2020 election lies; target of lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems; irresponsible hair colorist.
20% Mike Lindell
Known for: tacky linens hawker; promoter of insane Big Lie conspiracies; also named in Dominion lawsuit.
13% Michael Flynn
Known for: lying to the FBI about conversations with Russian diplomat; getting Trump pardon; backing Big Lie; currently traveling country promoting vaguely Seven Days in May–ish military coup agenda.
12% Steve Bannon
Known for: prominent alt-right/white nationalist agitation; winning Trump pardon after indictment for swindling Trump fan–wall enthusiasts out of $25 million.
10% Kayleigh McEnany
Known for: saying on first day of job as President Trump’s last spox, “I will never lie to you”; thereafter lying every day.
The Worst: Rudy Giuliani
If you have about 15 minutes to kill someday, go back and watch Rudy’s speech lionizing Trump at the 2016 convention. That 15 minutes will certainly be dead.
Staff pick: Rudy Giuliani
Worst Supreme Court Justice
39% Clarence Thomas
Known for: lewdly propositioning Anita Hill (which he denied); porn video rental habits; never asking a question during oral arguments in his first 25 years on court.
35% Brett Kavanaugh
Known for: allegations of sexual assault when in high school and college; being cutthroat, Ken Starr–worshipping partisan hatchet man.
15% Samuel Alito
Known for: nominated after Bush-era Harriet Miers fiasco; recently complaining that opposing same-sex marriage was “what the vast majority of Americans thought; now, it’s considered bigotry.” Um … yes.
8% Amy Coney Barrett
Known for: shameless last-minute elevation on to court; macabre White House superspreader celebratory event.
2% Neil Gorsuch
Known for: Trump’s first SCOTUS appointee; general smarmy arrogance; famous ruling against a truck driver who almost froze to death.
The Worst: Clarence Thomas
Tough one here. If only Coney Barrett’s “we are not partisan hacks” speech—delivered in Louisville at the McConnell Center, no less—had been delivered a little earlier in the summer.
Staff pick: Samuel Alito
Worst Magazine and/or Website
Known for: alt-right white nationalist site started by Andrew Breitbart, later run by Steve Bannon; reported that Obama Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to “Friends of Hamas,” which originated in a sarcastic comment made by a reporter; and, of course, Pizzagate.
Known for: started by Christopher Ruddy of Clinton conspiracy fame (he later made peace with the Clintons) and Mar-a-Lago dinner invites; providing home to aging reactionary cranks like Pat Buchanan and Dick Morris.
20% The Federalist
Known for: co-founded by Ben Domenech; running op-ed defending Roy Moore dating teenage girls; spreading rampant Covid disinformation, urging shortly after pandemic was declared that people hold “chickenpox parties” to fight “Wuhan virus.”
12% The Daily Caller
Known for: co-founded by Tucker Carlson to be serious conservative news site; quickly degenerated into trolling and prurient spreads like the one referring to some female Syrian refugees as “Syria-sly hot.”
3% The Blaze
Known for: founded by Glenn Beck; heavily edited satirical video about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; BlazeTV host Jon Miller tweeting, when a South Korean director gave an Oscar speech mostly in Korean, that “these people are the destruction of America.”
The Worst: Breitbart
This one’s all about Pizzagate.
Staff pick: Breitbart
Worst Big Donor
62% The Kochs
Known for: Kansas fortune; laundering reputation by lavishing money on NYC cultural institutions; complete hatred of regulations of all kinds; repeated violations of environmental laws.
22% Rebekah Mercer
Known for: friendship with Steve Bannon; key backer, with father, Robert, of Breitbart News; funded Milo Yiannopoulos’s “Dangerous F----t” college tour.
10% Sheldon Adelson (RIP)
Known for: Las Vegas casino fortune; self-parodic hair dye; millions to Trump and GOP; Israel, Israel, Israel.
4% Vince & Linda McMahon
Known for: professional wrestling empire; she left Trump administration post to chair Trump’s 2020 super-PAC; outraised by pro-Biden counterpart in waning days of 2020 race.
2% Richard Uihlein
Known for: founder of Uline, a commercial supply company; joined top tier of GOP donors in 2018 and 2020; wife, Liz, declared coronavirus “overhyped”—in April 2020.
The Worst: The Kochs
And just as we were going to press, the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity (brother Charles, pictured) launched a multimillion-dollar ad blitz against the Democrats’ budget bill.
Staff pick: The Kochs
ALL PERCENTAGE RESULTS ARE ROUNDED.