In the future, 2020 will be shorthand for anything terrible or ruined, like telling diners that a dish has been "86'd" or replying to a coworker's email with an affirmative "10-4." You'll be able to easily convey the disastrous nature of a date by explaining "it was a total 2020" and conveniently express your disappointment with an Amazon purchase by leaving a review about how you got "2020'd."
Yes, this year was one for the books, and in classic Miami fashion, our local baddies knocked it out of the park. Our scammers swindled suckers, our commentators concocted conspiracies, and our politicians participated in pandemic pandering. At the very least, there was some comfort in their consistency.
Each year, New Times rounds up a list of 12 scoundrels and ne'er-do-wells, except for that time in 2018 when we all procrastinated for too long and simply gave up. Luckily, we managed to get our shit together this go-around. Once again, we present to you the annual Dirty Dozen.
Under the Chinese zodiac cycle, 2020 is the Year of the Rat. But if the State of Florida had its own zodiac cycle, 2020 would be the Year of the Ghoul. And no one in Florida has danced on more graves, preyed on the most vulnerable, and eaten as many souls as Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The novel coronavirus has infected 1.2 million Floridians and killed more than 21,000 over the past nine months. Meanwhile, the governor has downplayed the severity of the pandemic from the start. A Sun Sentinel investigation dug into all the ways DeSantis misled residents about COVID-19. DeSantis denied that there was community spread of the virus despite evidence to the contrary, disregarded the advice of scientists and medical professionals, and barred Florida Department of Health spokespeople from issuing news releases or social media posts about COVID-19 in the lead-up to the November presidential election. As Thomas Unnasch, co-director of the University of South Florida's Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease Research, told the Sentinel, DeSantis put "politics before science."
If there's one thing DeSantis has gotten right, it's proving he has more business living in a haunted house than in the Governor's Mansion.
One of the most stomach-turning outcomes of this summer's Black Lives Matter protests was finding out who in our communities and families has been racist all along. Among those creeps was Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero, who took issue with athletes speaking out against racial injustice this year, calling them "America bashing" people. After denying the premise that the U.S. was founded on racist ideals, he then signaled on Twitter that he didn't find it troublesome that the U.S. counted enslaved Black people as three-fifths of their white counterparts when measuring the population. Salguero, who came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Cuba, argued that America has it better than other countries, so people here don't have a right to complain. His comments made even his own coworkers downright uncomfortable, and many Herald journalists condemned Salguero's words. If the columnist wants athletes to stop talking about real issues and just stick to sports, maybe he should consider taking his own advice.
Matt Gaetz, who represents the Florida Panhandle, could probably win an award for being the biggest tool in Congress any day of the year. But in 2020, his penchant for political theatrics reached new heights. In March, he caught heat for making light of the COVID-19 pandemic by wearing a gas mask on the House floor for a vote on a coronavirus aid package. After one of Gaetz's constituents died of COVID-19, he defended his use of the mask, claiming he was totally serious about protecting himself and others. But that defense falls apart when you remember that Gaetz spread a conspiracy theory — on national television, no less — that effectively killed a research organization's grant to develop a cure for the novel coronavirus.
In November, Politico reported that the congressman had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Gaetz recovered and reportedly never had symptoms. But knowing he came down with the virus hasn't given him pause. He keeps taking group photos and selfies with partygoers at superspreader events, including at a New York Young Republican Club gala and a fundraiser for the right-wing organization Turning Point USA. Gaetz swears that because he has antibodies, he's no threat to anybody. Really, the guy is a fucking menace, but at the very least maybe his selfies will help with contact tracing.
Only a special complicit someone could be married to White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller, so it makes sense that Katie Miller, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, rivals her husband's lack of empathy. In a book published this year by NBC News reporter Jacob Soboroff, Separated, the Weston native made it clear that she shares her spouse's draconian beliefs about immigration, including the Trump administration's policy of ripping kids away from their parents. "My family and colleagues told me that when I have kids I'll think about the separations differently. But I don't think so... [The Department of Homeland Security] sent me to the border to see the separations for myself — to try to make me more compassionate — but it didn't work," she told Soboroff. Asked if she was a white nationalist, she said no, but not terribly convincingly. "If you come to America, you should assimilate," she said. "Why do we need to have 'Little Havana'?" Miller's idiotic and heartless comments set off a firestorm in Miami. "Now you know, Trumpsters, what they really think of you," Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago wrote.
In November, Miller gave birth to the couple's first child. Will being a mother make her more compassionate? We're not counting on it.
Matthew Mizrahi is as good of a case as any for staying the hell away from TikTok. The former University of Miami medical student — who bills himself as the "CEO of dropping out of med school" — gained a slight following this year by posting gross videos of himself diagnosing his male followers with "horniness" and joking about how the pussy is a "demon." After posting a handful of videos that show him wearing his UM white coat, the school worked so hard to distance itself that it sent out a mass email denouncing Mizrahi's "misogynistic comments." Don't worry, Matt: If TikTok stardom doesn't pan out, there's always podcasting.
Everybody knows Alex Rodríguez, right? Not the baseball player — the totally legit politician who ran as a no-party candidate for Senate District 37 this year. No? Us neither. Turns out Alex, whose real name is Alexis Rodríguez, was a shadow candidate planted in the Senate race by the N-word-slinging, Republican former state Sen. Frank Artiles to siphon votes from a Democratic candidate with the same surname, incumbent José Javier Rodríguez. An investigation by the Miami Herald revealed that Alex Rodríguez actually lives in Palm Beach County, meaning he didn't even reside in the district. The antics likely ended up costing José Javier Rodríguez the race, handing the Senate seat after several recounts to Republican Ileana Garcia, a political newcomer who co-founded Latinas for Trump. Although the scheme may have been Artiles' brainchild, Alex Rodríguez agreed to the plan and misled voters by entering a race he never intended to win. In a year rife with accusations of voter fraud and election tampering, Alex Rodríguez's pseudo-candidacy is one clear example of outright tampering with our state's democratic process.
Miami Beach has never been a mecca for entirely sane people, but 2020 saw the rapid deterioration of City Commissioner Ricky Arriola into near lunacy. Though he ran as a Democrat in 2018, Arriola started sharing far-right conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus on social media from untrustworthy sites like The Gateway Pundit and the Daily Wire, sounding more and more like a guest on Infowars than a liberal leader in the beach town. Arriola's Twitter tirades usually had something to do with pushing for the firing of immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, railing against pandemic- induced lockdowns, or playing down the severity of COVID-19, despite thousands of deaths in Miami-Dade County alone. The commissioner's disinformation and downplaying of the deadly virus got so bad, his own party called for his removal from office. Arriola shrugged off the rebuke as censorship while he continued to support the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure for COVID-19. (Spoiler alert: It isn't.) To this day, Arriola is still lobbing insults at Dr. Fauci and sharing misleading articles about COVID-19 from... *checks notes*... a real estate magazine? Maybe Arriola started injecting Clorox at Trump's behest, or the madness that is 2020 got the better of him, but this Miami Beach politician has jumped straight off the deep end.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has handily won just about every election she's run in since 2004. So there's no real reason the congresswoman needed to be campaigning against her longshot Democratic primary challenger, Jen Perelman, outside of a Pembroke Pines library in August. And yet. Martina Velasquez, a 16-year-old campaign volunteer for Perelman, told New Times that Wasserman Schultz got so worked up outside the polling place that she forcefully shoved the teen while attempting to speak with voters. According to Velasquez, the politician proceeded to make aggressive physical contact throughout the afternoon. Although Velasquez filed a police report, she decided not to press charges, fearing the potential repercussions for her immigrant family. Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, won the primary and then the general election, because of course she did.
Florida's former top prosecutor, Pam Bondi, jumped to President Donald Trump's aid last month when he demanded that votes stop being counted in states with electoral votes he desperately needed to secure a second term in the White House. Bondi went as far as appearing on Fox and Friends to spread the false gospel of Democratic election-stealing in Pennsylvania. Trump's campaign swarmed the state to cast doubts on the legitimacy of votes cast there. Bondi boldly declared that the campaign had evidence of cheating, but of course could not elaborate and provided no proof of her claims. She alleged that some Pennsylvania voters were casting "fake ballots." When a reporter pushed back, Bondi faltered, but only for a moment. She continued with a rant about unspecified Pennsylvanians putting up "huge trash cans," implying that ballots were being thrown away. But when a Fox and Friends co-host asked her if Trump campaign observers had actually spoken to any ballot counters who reported any shenanigans, she shook her head no.
While most Miamians were pinching pennies and hoarding toilet paper this year, 29-year-old David Hines decided to ride out 2020 in style. After the feds issued the Paycheck Protection Program to provide financial relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors say Hines submitted fraudulent applications to secure $3.9 million in loans for his various moving companies. After wiring $30,000 to his mom, the small- business scammer allegedly dropped $4,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue and spent $11,000 at the Fontainebleau and Setai hotels in Miami Beach. Then, he dropped a cool $318,000 on a brand-new Lamborghini Huracan, which he managed to wreck in a July hit-and-run crash. But for those two months prior, we bet he looked like a total boss whizzing down the MacArthur in his cool-guy car.
Soundcloud rapper Lil Pump, a Miami native, shocked audiences this year when he showed up at a political rally and pledged his support for President Donald Trump. Someone must've woken up the "Gucci Gang" star from his weed-and-cough- syrup-induced stupor, slapped a MAGA hat on him, and told him he was now a Trump supporter, because that's about the only explanation that makes sense. Even after Trump butchered his name on stage, Pump doubled down on his support, using his new "Lil Pimp" moniker and criticizing Joe Biden in the song "Lil Pimp Big MAGA Steppin'." Perhaps the young star believed Trump's "law and order" rhetoric didn't apply to him now that he's rolling in money, since the 20-year-old was known for starting riots at the various schools he was kicked out of in Miami. It could also be that he liked how "Trump" rhymes with "Pump," or that Trump was such a freaky guy, he loved it. Whatever the case may be, the rapper's sudden shift into MAGA territory prompted a collective groan from audiences and other celebrities. Pump promised to leave the U.S. if Trump lost, so here's us saying, "Adios, amigo. We hardly listened to you."
Ingrained in our collective memory is the day Trump held a televised press briefing and mused about injecting disinfectants to rid the body of the coronavirus. Mark Grenon, leader of Florida's Genesis II Church of Health & Healing, reportedly helped plant that seed in Trump's noggin. Grenon, whose "church" appears to be more of a money-making scheme than a legitimate place of worship, wrote a letter to the president in April saying that chlorine dioxide, an industrial disinfectant, is a "wonderful detox" that can kill most pathogens in the body and cure people of COVID-19. Grenon and his sons have peddled a bleaching chemical called Miracle Mineral Solution, also known as MMS, claiming the product will cure or prevent COVID-19 and conditions like Alzheimer's, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. In August, Grenon was arrested in Colombia, and he and his sons were charged in Miami federal court with selling bleach as a fake miracle cure for the coronavirus. Despite the fact that Grenon has acknowledged his church has "nothing to do with religion," he has bragged in interviews about how the government can't touch him because of religious protections. Turns out, that was just another false prophecy.
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