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The 10 Most Questionable Choices for TIME'S Person of the Year

Updated November 6, 2017 6.1k views10 items

Time has been selecting a Person of the Year since 1929, and the title is generally considered honorable and prestigious. Usually, the magazine makes smart (or at least understandable) choices. The title has gone to important people like Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John XXIII, Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. With that being said, Time has made quite a few questionable choices throughout the years as well. This list of past recipients includes truly evil people like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The magazine also made lightheartedly questionable choices like The Inheritors (1966) and You (2006). 

Time defends these decisions by stating that the magazine’s main criteria are importance and influence. They select people (or things) that change the world, not necessarily people who are morally good. Nevertheless, it is disturbing that Time has given the title to genocidal dictators, war criminals, and scandalous liars. So who were the most controversial Time people of the year? Read on to see some who got the most backlash and leave a comment with who you think the worst Time person of the year was.

  • Photo: Time Magazine

    Vladimir Putin

    In 2007, Time named Vladimir Putin Man of the Year for some reason. Sure, he advanced Russia's economy, but his immoral actions certainly outweigh his accomplishments. Although Russia calls itself a democracy, Putin has managed to sidestep constitutional term limits to remain in power since 1999 by switching his title from President to Prime Minister (over and over again). After he was named Person of the Year, his list of shocking actions grew to include jailing activists and journalists, annexing Crimea, and passing homophobic laws. 

  • Photo: Time Magazine

    The Middle Americans

    In 1969, Time deemed "Middle Americans" the People of the Year, a choice that included (as they defined it) pretty much everyone in America.

    “The Middle Americans tend to be grouped in the nation's heartland more than on its coasts. But they live in Queens, N.Y., and Van Nuys, Calif., as well as in Skokie and Chillicothe. They tend toward the middle-aged and the middlebrow. They are defined as much by what they are not as by what they are. As a rule, they are not the poor or the rich. Still, many wealthy business executives are Middle Americans. H. Ross Perot, the Texas millionaire who organized a group called 'United We Stand Inc.' to support the President on the war, is an example.” 

    To many, this vast and vague choice was the same as not choosing anyone at all.

  • Photo: Time Magazine

    Wallis Simpson

    In 1936, Wallis Simpson was named the first ever Woman of the Year; however, she was nothing more than a relatively useless socialite who openly associated with Nazis. Simpson's claim to fame was her marriage to Prince Edward (formerly King Edward VIII) who abdicated his throne to marry her.

    During World War II, the couple met with Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi officials regularly. According to many sources, she and her husband had secretly agreed to rule Britain if Hitler managed to win the war and claim it.  

  • Photo: Time Magazine

    Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

    After giving him the title the year before, Time named Richard Nixon the person of the year in 1972 along with Henry Kissinger. Just two years later, Nixon became the first-ever president to resign from office due to the infamous Watergate Scandal. As an American national security advisor, Kissinger was responsible for violent rebellions and coup d'états in other nations. Many consider him a war criminal.