Our top scandal is a familiar tale: A beloved princess and some unwanted photographic attention. The former Kate Middleton, wife of the future king of England, was on holiday at a private home in France when a photographer captured grainy images of the duchess sunbathing topless. The French magazine Closer printed the images, prompting a lawsuit from the royal family.
#2 Jackson family fight
Although Michael Jackson died in 2009, the battle over his estate continued through 2012.Michael’s siblings Janet, Jermaine, Rebbie, Tito and Randy wrote to the executors of Michael’s will objecting that the document was fake. (At the heart of their concern was that it named only their mother, Katherine, and Michael’s three children, Paris, Prince and Blanket.)
The controversy raged through the summer, with an altercation at the family compound that resulted in the police being called and custody of the children temporarily transferred from Katherine to a cousin. As it currently stands, Katherine has shared custody of her grandchildren, and there is little evidence that the document will be overturned
#3 Lance Armstrong doping
Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, was stripped of his titles and dropped from millions of dollars in endorsement deals after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released an extensive report accusing the cyclist of doping throughout his career. Cycling would appear to have bigger issues than Armstrong—all seven runners-up to Armstrong’s Tour de France wins are embroiled in their own doping scandals.
#4 General David Petraeus affair
The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, a four-star general who had overseen American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, placed high on our list. An FBI investigation revealed that Petraeus had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The story eventually tied in Florida socialite Jill Kelley (who had received threatening emails from Broadwell), a shirtless FBI agent, and Gen. John Allen, who exchanged thousands of emails with Kelley.
#5 New Orleans Saints bounty suspensions
The New Orleans Saints’ yearlong battle with the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell made our list, after the league office leveled suspensions against the team’s players and coaches for allegedly putting bounties on opposing players. In short: Players were rewarded for injuring members of opposing teams. Many of the suspensions were reduced after an appeals court ruled that Goodell had overstepped his authority.
#6 Bobby Petrino affair
Former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle while transporting a female athletic department employee who was not his wife. Petrino had used his influence to get his mistress a job and then failed to disclose details of the accident to school officials until days later, resulting in his termination.
“I have played it over and over in my head a million times,” Petrino told ESPN in his first postfiring interview. “How could I do this? How could this happen? And not just the hiring. Or that day. But my actions, my behavior—for months it was just wrong.
#7 Secret Service in Colombia
The Secret Service found itself in the spotlight after a confrontation between an agent and a prostitute in Colombia. A member of an advance team for President Barack Obama during his April trip to South America became involved in a heated argument with an escort over compensation. The police became involved, and the incident was reported by a local news outlet.
#8 Jimmy Savile/BBC controversy
The late BBC personality Jimmy Savile—host of the show “Jim’ll Fix It,” where he made the wishes of children come true—was a hugely popular figure in Britain. So popular, in fact, that he was knighted in 1990.
After Savile’s death in October, BBC rival ITV aired a documentary exposing the host as a pedophile. The BBC’s own news division—highly respected in England and worldwide—had compiled a similar program, but was told not to run it because the report would disrupt the holiday schedule, which included multiple tributes to Savile.
#9 Air Force sexual assault investigation
The ninth-most-searched scandal was the endemic sexual harassment and assault at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Lackland is the primary training base for the Air Force, graduating 35,000 airmen each year. An investigation into at least 25 instructors and 11 commanders resulted in multiple convictions for the rape, sexual assault and harassment of dozens of female trainees. The Air Force installed Col. Deborah Liddick as commander of the base in September.
#10 London Whale
JPMorgan Chase trader Bruno Iksil (nicknamed the London Whale) gambled big on an obscure corner of the credit market—and lost in spectacular fashion.
The London Whale not only incurred $6.2 billion in trading losses but allegedly also mismarked some of the losses to cover up their magnitude. His supervisor, Javier Martin-Artajo, was sued by the bank for assisting in the cover-up, and JPMorgan has been the subject of an investigation by the U.S. government. Still, CEO Jamie Dimon has found his name mentioned for positions in the second Obama administration, and JPMorgan Chase stock had rebounded to its prescandal levels by October.