We all know that most celebrities aren’t quite what they made out to be. Whether it’s TV chefs spitting out racial slurs or actors trying to be world record drug-takers, it’s not really a surprise when they misbehave. After all, they are only human.
However, there are some people who have such a saint-like reputation that it is almost unbelievable for them to be anything other than good. But even the best of humanity can be the worst of humanity.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Now and then we like to dig back into the TopTenz.net archives and re-share some of our best content as TopTenz Classics. Please enjoy this classic list from 2014.)
10. Sir Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is one of the most popular and best selling British authors of all time, writing many classic children’s books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. However, though he brought joy to many children with his books, he did not start out writing stories for kids. His early works include stories involving seven-foot penises, and even in the children’s books, there are themes of violence and horror.
While these tales may be surprising, they are not in any way a sign of a hidden evil. For that, Dahl’s political views should be looked at. When he was younger, Dahl held the not-uncommon-at-the-time view that Africans should be exploited for wealth. Dahl was also opposed to the creation of Israel and thought that Jews asked for what they got, claiming “There’s a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity … even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”
9. General George Patton
General Patton was a great military leader, who won several major victories against the Axis forces. Victories come at a cost though, and there are claims that Patton ordered the killing of captive Germans and Italians.
But while those killings may be a result of the chaos of war, his treatment of his own soldiers was not. During the Campaign in Sicily, Patton visited a soldier suffering from shell shock, and his response was to slap him twice. In defense of Patton, some say PTSD was not yet recognized and in a war situation, a general has to be tough to keep order. However, that does not excuse cruel treatment of the men he had a duty to protect.
Patton also had little respect for the citizens he was fighting for. During the Bonus Marches, Patton said the deaths of a large number of First World War veterans would be “an object lesson.” The America he fought for was a pure Nordic (read Aryan) America without any disrupting Jews and blacks.
8. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the USA, and is seen by many as one of the best to ever hold the office. Preserving the Union and freeing the slaves earned Lincoln his place in history, though emancipation was little more than a political trick. Lincoln even admitted as much, saying “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.” To him, freeing slaves would not only cause problems in the South, it would provide extra troops for the North and improve relations with Europe so as to keep the British and French out of the war.
The fact that Lincoln was not intent on freeing slaves is shown when only slaves in the South were freed, yet those in the North remained in chains. Lincoln also did not intend on making ex-slaves equal citizens, saying there was “no (reason) … to introduce equality between the white and black races.”
Lincoln did not stop with mere tricks to preserve the Union. He was willing to turn the Union into a dictatorship by revoking the Writ of Habeas Corpus, allowing him to imprison anyone deemed an enemy of the state, and hold them indefinitely, without trial.
7. Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill is often viewed as the best UK Prime Minister in history, and his legacy is well deserved. Many credit Churchill’s strong leadership for Britain’s continued resistance to Germany, which may have stopped them from winning World War II. However, Churchill would defeat the Nazis at any cost, and we mean any. After the British evacuation at Dunkirk, Churchill was worried that the French Fleet would fall into German hands. A joint French-German Fleet would be a serious threat to the Royal Navy, and Churchill thought the risk should be dealt with.
With that aim, he ordered the attack at Mers-el Kebir in North Africa. Over 1200 Frenchmen were killed, and the attack caused distrust between the two nations. The French troops that fought the Americans in North Africa were likely influenced by Mers-el-Kebir to fight the Allies.
Churchill was also the main advocate for an attack on the Soviet Union. This new war would have killed more people than the war in Europe, but was worth it to Churchill to stop what he saw as a worse regime than Hitler’s.
6. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was like the granddad of world politics. His forgiveness of Apartheid leaders and his overall peaceful outlook on life, gave the impression of a wise and caring leader. But back in the day, Mandela was the leader of the terrorist group Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation,) which was responsible for many innocent deaths. To add to that came the waves of violence committed by the black populace, which is still going on today. In fact, Mandela’s group was so bad, he was even refused a defense by Amnesty International before he went to Robben Island.
5. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is arguably one of the greatest minds of this generation. Not only did he lead Apple in its revolution of mobile technology, but he also played a part in the growth of Pixar as a film company.
However, his image as a cool inventor who gives gifts to humanity is beyond misleading. Apple is a business and, like any business, aims to make a profit. However, unlike most businesses, Apple readily employs people in sub-human conditions. Steve Jobs didn’t see this as a problem, claiming sweatshops “aren’t that bad.”
Steve Jobs was also not known for his charitable giving. Unlike other rich people, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs did not donate his vast wealth to good causes, and when Jobs regained control of Apple, he shut down Apple’s charity programs.
4. Mahatma Ghandi
Mahatma Gandhi is well known for his belief in non-violence resistance and his pacifist nature. However, what is less well known is his devotion to his vow of celibacy and the lengths he would go to confirm it. For Gandhi, sexual abuse of his teenage grandnieces was part of that vow. While it is not known whether or not Gandhi engaged in sexual acts with the young girls, he certainly slept naked with them, which is seen as child abuse by both the UK and US Governments.
While this act could be passed off as a difference in culture, there is another side to Gandhi which has even less in common with his popular image. Although Gandhi was famous for respecting all races — it was this respect that got him killed, after all — he was less than sympathetic towards the Jews who were being persecuted at the time. Following his belief in non-violent resistance, Gandhi claimed that the Jews would be better off killing themselves. Failing that, they should have allowed themselves to be killed.
Despite a view that, at the very least, condoned the Holocaust, Gandhi was not a Nazi and actively opposed Nazi plans. However, this didn’t stop him from praising Hitler, once describing the Fuhrer as the “defender of the Fatherland,” and saying he wasn’t as bad as people made him out to be.
The prophet Mohammad lived in the Middle East during the 6th and 7th centuries, and from his work grew the world’s second largest religion, Islam. However, while many Muslims today follow a peaceful brand of Islam, as practiced by Mohammad it was far from civil. During the faith’s early years, Mohammad often spread Islam by ways of force and, when not spreading the word, would often raid trade routes that other groups relied on, just to get revenge.
Mohammad was also guilty of what can only be seen as war crimes. After his group conquered a Jewish tribe, it was ordered that “all the able-bodied male persons belonging to the tribe should be killed.” But Mohammad’s orders did not end with murder. After conquering tribes, Mohammad often allowed his men to rape the women that were captured, as long as they weren’t Muslims. There are also claims that Mohammad raped a 6-year-old girl. Some may argue that it was a different time, but that is no better an excuse than “I was just following orders.”
2. Jimmy Savile
Jimmy Savile was one of Britain’s favorite and most successful radio and TV broadcasters, with a career that lasted for over 30 years. During that time, he was well known for his charity work and often raised large amounts of money, as well as hosting a TV show where kids (and some adults) could have their dreams come true. For his work, Savile received an OBE, and most people thought it was well earned.
However, what the public didn’t know was that Savile was using his influences as a celebrity for a much darker purpose. A year after he died, it was revealed that Savile had sexually abused over 100 underage victims, many times offering them a place on his show in return for sexual favors. To add to his dark nature, the UK police have looked into claims that Savile abused young patients at a hospital he was a volunteer at.
Savile was able to get away with these crimes for years because he wore the disguise of a generous carer so well that none questioned his motives, and he successfully hid his dark side from the public until after he died
1. Walt Disney*
America’s own beloved “Uncle Walt” made millions of dollars with great cartoons, animated features, and a family-focused entertainment company that continues to entertain millions to this day. He built Disneyland as a tourist destination and laid down plans for a Florida-based theme park that many around the globe consider “the happiest place on earth”. Why, what could possibly be wrong with Walter Disney?
Racism, for one. At least in modern eyes, some of Walt’s decisions and comments would be considered everything from questionable to highly offensive – like referring to the dwarfs in Snow White as an n-word pile and buddying up with known anti-semites in the Motion Picture Alliance For the Preservation of American Ideals. He even personally welcomed Nazi film director Leni Riefenstahl at his studios 1 month after Kristallnacht. There are also rumors of sexism, mostly relating to his refusal to hire women in the creative process.
Most people who knew Walt Disney claimed that he really wasn’t aggressive in his racism, certainly in comparison with the times he lived in, but it does call into question some of his motivations for his decisions.
* Walt Disney was a replacement for the original “person” on this list. The edit was written by 5Minutes.