Ten Epic Media Feuds of 2012

These Folks Were Ready to Rumble (and Whine and Tweet and ...)

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When Food Network star Paula Deen, notorious promoter of obscenely unhealthful grub, announced in January that she has Type 2 diabetes and, oh, by the way, had signed an endorsement deal with a diabetes-drug maker, longtime Deen critic Anthony "No Reservations" Bourdain tweeted, "Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later." Deen's response? She called Bourdain "very, very cruel" -- then spent a few minutes wondering if there was money to be made in deep-fried, bacon-battered crutches.

On election night, Fox News contributor Karl Rove bit the hand that feeds him.
On election night, Fox News contributor Karl Rove bit the hand that feeds him. Credit: Kelsey Dake

In February, when Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testified before a congressional committee about the need for mandated insurance coverage for birth control, Rush Limbaugh called her "a slut" and "a prostitute" who "essentially says that she must be paid to have sex."(Insert your own joke here about disgusting, old men who know all about paying for sex.)

When Current TV fired "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann in March, the network angrily chalked it up to "unauthorized absences," "sabotage" and "disparagement." Olbermann's response: An extended Twitter rant, a multimillion-dollar lawsuit and his own cries of "disparagement." What's happened since then? I don't know and I don't care! Nobody cares! (Is that disparaging?)

When "American Psycho" author Bret Easton Ellis randomly tweeted in June that "Nikki Finke lives in the same building as I do in West Hollywood," it wasn't long before the reclusive Deadline Hollywood blogger, perceiving a threat to her privacy, went psycho on him, calling up his ICM agent's office to deliver (in the words of the New York Observer) "an epic, otherworldly screaming-at" to her assistant, and threatening legal action. BEE's frightful return volley: a series of bitchy, belittling retorts on Twitter (maybe his chainsaw was in the shop?).

Gawker is obsessed with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. See, for example, its use of the quickly unmasked "Fox Mole" ("Announcing Our Newest Hire: A Current Fox News Channel Employee") in April. But in July the blog escalated hostilities by targeting the big man himself, along with his wife, in a post titled ""It Was Like a War Zone': A Former Nanny for Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng Speaks Out." The circle of media life won't be complete, though, until Gawker Media owner Nick Denton hires Chloe Murdoch, age 10, and Grace Murdoch, age 12, to edit Gawker. (Or wait, did he already? Hard to tell.)

In August, thanks to the telecast of the Republican National Convention, the world learned that Clint Eastwood totally hates chairs. Man, the way they just sit there, all smug and idle, swearing at you under their breath. Makes you want to jab your finger at them and berate them endlessly, doesn't it?!

Elton John spent much of 2012 dissing the Material Girl but arguably topped himself in August on Australian TV when he declared that "she looks like a [bleeping] fairground stripper." Madonna's response: She kept right on looking like a [bleeping] fairground stripper. Touché!

In late October, the sad news of Justin Bieber's cancer diagnosis flooded Twitter, spurred by a tweet from Entertainment Weekly -- "Bieber fans are shaving their heads to show their support" -- and the #baldforbieber trend. Except all of it was a hoax (including the seeming EW tweet), perpetrated by the troublemakers at the notorious 4chan message board. #wigsforbieber, anyone?


A menu full of items that can't be "eaten without fear or regret," dishes served with "ruinous sides and sauces," and so on, ad nauseam (literally). Pete Wells' November take on Guy Fieri's new Times Square restaurant, published in The New York Times, was the year's funniest and harshest restaurant review. Though Fieri declared that Wells had an agenda -- bringing down an out-of -town chef for sport -- he's having the last laugh because his eatery is reportedly drawing plenty of "ironic diners" who feel the need to experience the awfulness firsthand. (Indigestion? How droll!)

On election night, on Fox News, GOP strategist/dark lord Karl Rove took umbrage at the network's decision to declare Barack Obama the winner. A "very early call," he insisted, apparently convinced that his man Mitt would still win the night. Fox News host Megyn Kelly felt compelled to visit the network's "decision desk" team to get them to explain their call -- pitting the in-house statistics experts against a colleague (Rove is a contract contributor) who openly doubted their competence. Since then, Rove's been pretty much exiled from Fox News. Not even Nate Silver could have called that one!

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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