It ain't easy being a shmuck. Not as mean as an asshole, not as ignorant as a shithead, a shmuck takes idiocy to an epic level, a moron whose fall from grace has far-reaching repercussions. We've been celebrating weekly shmucks for a long, long time -- but to be named one of Colorado's top 10 shmucks of the decade? That's a very special thing, indeed.
Here are the lucky 10:
10. Joe Nacchio Where have you gone, Joe Nacchio? Oh, yeah: federal prison, thanks to that insider trading you were convicted of in 2007, stemming from your tenure as Qwest CEO from 1997 to 2002, a title you apparently took to mean "Chief Embezzlement Officer." Joltin' Joe has left and gone away -- hopefully not to be back for a very, very long time.
9. Terry Barton Maybe Terry Barton was sick the day the instructors at her U.S. Forest Service training talked about how it's a no-no to start campfires in areas designated for no fires due to very, very severe droughts. How else to explain Barton's decision to do just that in an area southeast of Denver in 2002 in order to burn, of all things, letters from her estranged husband?
The campfire would trigger the Hayman Fire, the largest blaze in recorded Colorado history, torching 138,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of 5,340 people and playing a role in the deaths of six people. Barton eventually pled guilty to arson, for which the former forestry officer was given a six-year prison sentence and a $14.6 million bill from the federal government. That might be a lot of dough, but it's a small price to pay for being such a flaming shmuck.
8. Ward Churchill There's only thing that eclipses former University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill's reputation, and that's his ego.
The provocative and bombastic professor nabbed the spotlight in 2005 thanks to an essay he wrote that called workers killed in the World Trade Center attacks "little Eichmanns," as in Otto Adolf Eichmann, the author of the holocaust. We give Churchill's statement an A for, um, originality, but an F for humanity. CU agreed, giving Churchill the boot -- although in April a Denver jury found he'd been wrongly fired. But just because you have a right to be a shmuck doesn't mean you should.
7. Marilyn Musgrave During her stint as on the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009, Musgrave was known for lots of things, like fighting same-sex marriage and ... um ... actually, that's about it.
She rode her one-trick prejudice pony with all her closed-minded might, repeatedly sponsoring an unsuccessful Federal Marriage Amendment and announcing in 2006 that "I don't think there's anything more important out there than the marriage issue." (As we all know, those little problems with Iraq and Afghanistan and terrorism and global warming and economic meltdowns would all go away if we could only stop gay people people from wanting to get hitched). She was less forthcoming when soundly defeated in 2008, refusing to concede defeat or congratulate her opponent. Months later, she claimed in a political robocall she'd been done in by the lies of "leftist special interests." Actually, Musgrave, it was due to your rightist special shmuckery.
6. Michael Tracey and John Mark Karr Michael Tracey and John Mark Karr share this honor, since they're a match made in creepy shmuck heaven. Tracey's a CU journalism professor, where he apparently teaches the finer points of sleazy, unsubstantiated tabloid exposes. He went for extra credit in 2006 when he identified John Mark Karr, then living in Thailand, as the perpetrator behind the notorious murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey. While Karr was an alleged pedophile and an all-around creepazoid, he wasn't Ramsey's killer, which authorities discovered after an expensive extradition from halfway across the world. Some people accused Tracey, via a very disturbing long-term relationship with Karr, of "grooming" the man to become a suspect so the prof could reap the media rewards. We don't need a DNA test to solve this mystery: They're both total shmucks.
5. Ted Haggard You had us at "Sex with a male prostitute," Pastor Ted.
That would have been enough, since, as founder of Colorado Springs' New Life Church, you had been known as one of the most influential conservative evangelical preachers in the country. But when you add in the fact you also solicited methamphetamine from your bedfellow-for-hire Mike Jones, we had to shout out, "Hallelujah!" Now you say you're a "heterosexual with issues." That's right; those "issues" are being a shmuck.
4. Douglas Bruce The state legislature just isn't the same without Bruce, a politician who was best known for authoring Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights in 1992 -- that is, until he filled a vacant house seat in 2007 and unleashed a whole new level of capitol crazy.
First he egotistically demanded the full house be present for his swearing in, apparently so that every one of hid colleagues would have the pleasure of watching him kick a Rocky Mountain News photographer. Then he refused to support a resolution recognizing Military and Veterans Appreciation Day, although he had no problem recognizing Mexicans as "illiterate peasants." Classy! We're thinking of passing a resolution recognizing you, Mr. Bruce -- as the number-one mascot for Shmuck Appreciation Day.
3. David Schultheis We have to wonder: At some point in 2008, did Colorado Senator David Schultheis stage a Da Vinci Code-esque ceremony with departing legislative laughingstock Doug Bruce (see above) in which the two, dressed in spooky Masonic robes, passed the title of "Chief Legislative Shmuck" from Bruce to Schultheis? It sure seems that way, what with Schultheis stating he hoped babies born from mothers with HIV developed AIDS as punishment and then, on his Twitter feed, seeming to compare President Obama to the 9/11 terrorists. Keep up the good work, Schultheis. You're making your shmucky predecessor Bruce proud -- although he's the only one.
2. Michael Karolchyk In 2008, this shiny-headed numbnut terrorized the airwaves with his vulgar "No Chubbies" commercials, in which he belittled and attacked overweight people in order to publicize his fitness business, Anti-Gym. Other tricks in his dickhead repertoire included getting his operation shut down by the IRS this year, because apparently he thought paying taxes for pussies.
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We've got news for you, Karolchyk: We'd rather be a chubby than a roid-raging shmuck like you.
1. Richard Heene and Mayumi Iizuka What a way to send out a decade packed with shmuckery.
The ridiculous balloon-boy hoax that duped the nation and triggered a costly and unnecessary rescue operation. The vomiting and other examples of bad parenting broadcast on national television. The revelation that Richard Heene and Mayumi Iizuka apparently planned it all to score a reality-TV gig. We have to hand it to the Heenes -- they not only round out our list of decade's best shmucks, but they're hard at work raising shmucks-to-be for the decade to come.