15 People Whose Names Were Dragged Through So Much Mud Their Reputations Never Recovered

Good opinions and reputations are equally hard to recover, once they’re lost.

Those two facts can sometimes combine in a truly terrible way – like when all we remember about a person is slander and lies, so even though they did nothing wrong and might have even been a good person, no one ever remembers them that way.

This must be a tough thing to come to terms with, I think, but these 15 people had no choice but to try.

15. Everyone was really afraid of Satan in the 1980s.

The MCMartin family of Manhattan Beach, Ca. They were a family running an ordinary daycare school and were vilified to the extent they not only lost their business, their social lives, but had to move and at least one had to change his name.

This was before social media. The local press and attention seeking interviewer did it to them.

Ah, the good old Satanic Panic of the 1980s. When entire towns lost their ever-loving minds over made up sh%t with no evidence.

Just as well nothing like that could ever happen in these enlightened times, right?

14. It breaks your heart.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain

A lot of people just repeat the ridiculous “Dingo ate my baby” phrase without knowing the story behind it.

A lot of shows have made comical references to it.

Well, this poor family had their 9 week old infant killed by Dingos, they weren’t believed and she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life, and he was convicted of being accessory after the fact.

Turns out their story was true. She spent 3 years in prison before a piece of the infants clothing was found and they were cleared.

But all people remember is “Dingo ate my baby”. How ridiculous, that would never happen!

13. It’s just a moment.

The guy who photographed the African kid dying with a vulture lurking nearby. Apparently after he took the photo he scared off the vulture and the kid survived for another ten years or so, dying when they were around 18.

Photo journalism is incredibly important. His photos are some of the most gruesome and horrifying photos I’ve ever seen. But that doesn’t make then bad in any sense. What Kevin did with his work was utterly and heartbreakingly amazing.

So many of us (let’s be real 90% plus of the global population) are so incredibly privileged that we will never come close to the reality of what his subjects in Sudan lived (and died) through. World famine is still a problem. Full stop. Someone needed to capture it. Because the reality of it is we could have never imagined those horror without seeing them for ourselves. You mentioned the photo of the kid (who was a boy) and the vulture, that ended up winning The Pulitzer Prize.

For me the ones are The Necklace Burning and the boy with the cow. True unimaginable horror. To put blame on a journalist when their job is to document and nothing more was so awful. I cant imagine the guilt, shame and 100 other things he must have gone through. Kevin’s work went above and beyond the call of duty.

Pick a charity, any charity that helps people feed themselves and donate. Locally or abroad. And if you can, keep donating, make it a regular thing!

12. Guilty by association.

Not 100% sure he fits here, because not many know about him, but…

Albert Göring, the brother (or maybe half-brother) of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

Albert spent 7 years in US custody after the war and then after he was released, he was arrested by the Soviets and again prosecuted.

But, he was anti-nazi. While most of his deeds are only anecdotal, there is enough evidence to show how he helped people escape Nazi Germany. (One of his US prosecutors saw his aunts name on a list provided by Albert and when he called her she confirmed that it was Albert who got her and her husband out.)

After Czech resistance members vouched for Albert, he was released by the Soviets as well, but back in Germany he couldn’t find work due to his name.

He died broke in 1966 and his anti-Nazi activities came to light only decades later.

Edit: I apparently misremembered something: he wasn’t 7 years in custody, only 2 (still long enough) and it was the Czech government that got to him after the US released him.

11. Some things never change.

The Empress Theodora of Byzantium.

In reality, she was a brilliant women who helped her husband rule an empire, and kept the various religions from having open warfare. Did lots of good stuff.

But she got her start as a dancer, basically, a stripper.

this pissed off some of the imperial court so much, one wrote a “history” that made her out to be that era’s biggest porn star. Which became the accepted version for centuries.

10. That will make for awkward dating in the future.

Christopher Jeffries, accused by the British media of murdering student Joanna Yeates in 2010.

He was completely innocent but the media found out he had been taken in for questioning and printed his face on every front page.

I don’t recall an apology being printed when they were wrong.

9. The man had class.

That Cubs fan who caught that ball, Steve Bartman. Everyone was reaching for it, and anyone would have tried to catch it, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Steve Bartman’s handling of the situation has been nothing but class the entire time. He’s turned down literally every opportunity for public appearances and/or opportunities to profit from his infamy. He declined an invitation to appear in the Cubs’ World Series parade (he did release a public statement congratulating the team). He owes nothing to anybody, and the very people who vilified him are the ones wanting him to appear in public now for their own gain.

See also: Bill Buckner. The Red Sox were on their way to losing anyway. Buckner was the easy scapegoat, but there’s no way he’s making an impactful play on that ground ball.

8. That’s a big oops.

Richard Jewell. He was accused of the bombing in Atlanta during the Olympics but had absolutely nothing to do with it. His life was pretty well screwed.

I was in Atlanta too. I remember how they talked about going into his parents’ house (where he lived) and they found his huge porn stash, making him out to be a weirdo pervert.

It was really sad.

7. You can’t take that back.

Cameron Todd Willingham was arrested and convicted for murdering his 3 children by arson after his house burned down with them inside, and was put to death 12 years later in 2004. Odds are pretty good he was actually innocent — multiple independent investigations have shown that the initial findings were wrong, and that the fire almost certainly wasn’t arson.

All of the other evidence against him was pretty much bullshit, like a psychologist stating that Willingham’s Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin posters were indications that he was a violent sociopath, or a jailhouse informant testifying that Willingham had confessed to him, who has since recanted and who may have been offered a sentence reduction to lie.

Maybe not quite dragged through the mud, but we did kill him…

6. A complete tragedy.

Patricia Stallings was accused of murdering her infant son, sent to jail and not allowed to attend his funeral. When her second son was born (in jail) and had the same issues, doctors accused her husband of poisoning him during supervised visits.

Eventually it was figured out he had a rare genetic disorder called Methylmalonic acidemia. Her conviction was overturned when her case aired on Unsolved Mysteries and dozens of doctors wrote/called in to verify the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning and MMA are deceptively similar.

Her second son was eventually returned to their custody but sadly died at just 23.

5. We did her so wrong.

Marilyn Monroe. She was stereotyped as the dumb blonde sex object similar to Brittany Spears and was rumored to be hard to work with.

Reality was that she was academically intelligent, supported the civil rights movements, had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder along with trauma from experiencing child abuse in foster care.

She was always kind to people and actually helped Ella Fitzgerald be able to get bookings by telling clubs that she’d only attend the club if Ella was hired to sing.

4. That was the end of that.

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a famous silent film comedian. In 1921, he was accused of violently raping a woman and causing her death.

He was put on trial three times; the first two trials ended with hung juries, but in the third, when more evidence was reviewed, he was acquitted and a jury even presented him with an apology, stating “Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done him.”

But by that time, he was vilified in the media, and could not find work anymore as an actor.

3. Bless his heart.

Edgar Allan Poe is remembered as marrying his teenage cousin Virginia Clemm, which he did do…because her parents had died, and he apparently wasn’t a close enough relation to her to be considered her legal guardian.

He married her because it was the only way to keep her from being shipped off to an orphanage, and there’s no evidence the marriage was ever consummated, or that he saw her as anything but a younger sister.

2. Every corporate tragedy needs a scapegoat.

Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of the White Star Line and the antagonist in James Cameron’s Titanic. He was the gentleman who said that people wanted to marvel at the speed of Titanic and prodded Captain Smith to sail faster.

In all actuality, Ismay wouldn’t have had much if any input to Smith and, if so, Smith likely wouldn’t have heeded Ismay’s advice as Smith was nearing retirement, and would not have taken advice from a businessman. Alternatively, Ismay knew that he was in capable hands and would never impose upon the captain by telling him how to sail his ship.

Survivors testified that during the sinking, Ismay was trying everything he could to assist with the filling of the lifeboats. He convinced passengers to get into boats and at one point had to be told by an officer to stop trying to help as he was getting in the way. Ismay took a vacant seat on one lifeboat just before it was about to be lowered, which was one of many empty spots on that particular lifeboat.

Ismay was a scapegoat because he was the highest-ranking survivor of the sinking, and he became a recluse afterwards. As another testament to his character, he created several charities aimed at helping families and survivors of maritime incidents.

1. It really does.

Britney Spears.

Shows our true feelings on mental illness/breakdown.

This is a tough lot in life, y’all.

Whose name would you add to this list? Clear the air in the comments!

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