These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities

Khalid Elhassan - September 15, 2021

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Contemporary cartoon depicting the honeymoon of Hitler and Stalin after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Wikimedia

16. As Things Turned Out, the Soviets Were Better Off For Having Signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact bought the Soviets nearly two years in which to prepare for war. Poor as the Soviet military’s performance was in 1941, it was even less prepared for war in 1939. Moreover, the Pact, which gave the USSR nearly half of Poland, pushed the Soviet borders hundreds of miles westwards, which gave the USSR that much additional buffer against the Nazis. Space and distance proved decisive to Soviet survival in 1941: the Germans came within 10 miles of the Kremlin before they were turned back. Without the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Germans would have launched their invasion from a start line hundreds of miles further to the east.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
German tanks plunge into the Soviet Union in 1941 at the start of Operation Barbarossa. Encyclopedia Britannica

The same effort that ran out of steam within sight of the Kremlin, would likely have pushed far beyond had it started hundreds of miles closer to Moscow. As the Soviets saw it, they owed the Western Powers and Poland nothing. Indeed, they had outstanding border claims against Poland. The Germans offered to satisfy those claims, while the British and French offered little. The Soviets were the ones expected to do the bulk of the fighting and dying in a war against Germany. So it struck them as chutzpah for Germany’s foes to offer so little in exchange for the high price the USSR would pay if it sided with them, rather than develop a relationship of benevolent neutrality with Germany.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
The barons forcing King John of England to sign the Magna Carta. 50-50 Parliament

15. Was King John of England as Awful as He is Depicted in the Robin Hood Legend?

King John of England (1166 – 1216) is best known as the bad guy from the Robin Hood legend. He is depicted as a cowardly usurper and awful sibling who constantly schemed to seize the throne, while his heroic brother, King Richard I the Lionheart, was away on God’s work in the Crusades. While the reality was more complicated, and Richard was actually a bad king who detested England and the English, John was no saint. Among other things, he personally murdered his teenaged nephew, Arthur of Brittany, in a drunken rage.

Nonetheless, John could also be quite a likeable fellow when he wanted to be. The problem was that he often did not bother to even try. So his reign ended up a disastrous one for England. He lost his French holdings, got the Pope to excommunicate him and place England under an interdiction, and triggered a baronial rebellion that ended with the Magna Carta. However, all of that came about not because John was a cartoonishly evil king, but because he was an epically incompetent one.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Tomb effigy of King John of England. History Today

14. King John Was Not So Much Evil as He Was Incompetent

On his way back home from the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart was captured and imprisoned by a powerful aristocrat whom he had offended in the Holy Lands. A huge ransom was demanded for Richard’s release, and his brother John tried to take advantage of the situation to usurp the English throne. He bungled it, and ended up banished and had his property confiscated, before a freed Richard finally forgave him. When he finally became king following his brother’s death without issue, John entered into a disastrous marriage that cost him much of his holdings in France. He then got into a ruinous war with the French king that cost him the rest.

At home, John got into an argument with an archbishop, that ended up with the Pope excommunicating John and all of England. Even when he tried to do the right thing and shifted some of the burden of taxation from the peasants to the wealthy nobles, it backfired and led to a baronial rebellion that forced him to sign the Magna Carta. Fittingly, his final days were just as pathetic: while suffering a bout of dysentery that would ultimately do him in, he decided to take a shortcut through some marshy ground by a tidal estuary. The tide came, and John barely escaped drowning, but ended up losing his baggage train and the Crown Jewels of England.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
The Empire of Japan’s strength in what was left of her territories on August 15th, 1945, the day she threw in the towel. US Army Center of Military History

13. Was it Actually Unnecessary to Atomically Bomb Japan in WWII?

One of the more persistent myths of the Second World War has it that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was unnecessary, because Japan was already reeling and on the verge of surrender. The Allies simply had to blockade Japan, and the Japanese government would have come to its senses sooner rather than later, and thrown in the towel. A variety of factors make that theory nonsensical. The first is that the war when the atomic bombs were dropped was not limited to the Japanese home islands and the choice of whether to invade or simply blockade them.

Japan in August, 1945, still occupied vast territories in Asia and the Pacific, and misgoverned hundreds of millions of conquered subjects. They endured daily horrors from their Japanese overlords, who subjected them to casual brutality, torture, rape, murder, and massacres. On average, roughly 250,000 conquered civilians – a number greater than the estimated 200,000 fatalities caused by both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs – died every month as a result of awful Japanese barbarities. Those civilians would have continued to suffer and die each day, week, and month, that the war dragged on while the Allies waited for the Japanese authorities to make up their minds about whether and when to surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Japanese soldiers laying down their weapons at war’s end. Pintrest

12. Every Day That WWII Dragged On Was Another Day in Which Thousands Were Killed and Millions Suffered

In the summer of 1945, Japan also had millions of soldiers stationed in her overseas empire in Asia and the Pacific, who were pitted against millions of Allied opponents. As a result, thousands of casualties were inflicted and suffered by both sides each day. Every single day that passed while the Japanese home islands were blockaded in the hope that doing so would bring Japan’s leaders to their senses, was another day in which thousands of Allied and Japanese soldiers were killed and wounded.

In addition, the Japanese held hundreds of thousands of Allied POWs in the summer of 1945. Japan, which had signed but not ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, did not treat POWs in accordance with international agreements. Instead, POWs were subjected to barbaric treatment every single day, and were routinely beaten, starved, denied medical care and treatment, or casually murdered. Casualties from continued fighting and from Japan’s atrocious treatment of POWs would have continued to mount every single day that the war continued, while the Allies waited for Japan’s surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. Atomic Archive

11. The Empire of Japan’s Awful Leaders

The main reason however that debunks the take that the atomic bombing of Japan was an awful mistake or atrocity is that the alternative would have been worse. Not just for the Allies, whether soldiers engaged in combat with Japanese, civilians living under brutal Japanese occupation, or POWs in brutal Japanese captivity, but for the Japanese themselves. If Japan had not been shocked into immediate surrender with atomic bombs, the Allies would have had to conduct a massive invasion of the Japanese home islands.

It was an invasion that Japan’s leaders were determined to resist via national suicide. Said leaders of the Empire of Japan were a morally bankrupt and cowardly lot. An awful bunch who refused to confront and accept the fact that they had made an awful mistake when they took their country into an unwinnable war, which they then lost. Ethical leaders would have shouldered the responsibility for the mess they got their country. Japan’s leaders tried to escape their burden via histrionics, and determined to immolate themselves and take their country with them.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
A Japanese soldier trains women to defend the homeland
with bamboo spears in 1945. Air Force Magazine

10. An Awful But Rational Calculation of the Greater vs Lesser Evil

Japan’s leaders in the summer of 1945 refused to accept responsibility for the consequences of their choice to wage an unwinnable war. Instead, they resorted to histrionics and sought to save face via the destruction of their country and its people. They trained women to fight heavily armed invaders with bamboo spears, and trained little boys and girls to fight soldiers with pointy sticks. Rather than sacrifice themselves in order to spare their country, Japan’s leaders sought to sacrifice their country in order to spare their egos from the humiliation of surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Japanese schoolgirls training to fight invaders with sticks. Quora

Such dishonorable notions of honor meant that the estimated cost of an invasion was upwards of a million Allied casualties, and tens of millions of Japanese, the overwhelming majority of them civilians. Compared to that, the 200,000 casualties of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, awful as they were, were an acceptable price in the eyes of the US government. For many, there was nothing exceptional about the innocent victims of the atomic bombings that would have justified sparing them at the cost of the millions of other lives that would have been lost elsewhere had the war continued.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Einstein’s letter to FDR. Wikimedia

9. Was Japan Atomically Bombed While Germany Was Not Because of Anti-Asian Racism?

Another common myth related to the nuclear bombing of Japan posits that the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of anti-Japanese racism. The theory goes that atomic bombs were not dropped on Germany, and would not have been dropped, because the Germans were Caucasian and neither the US government nor American public opinion would have stomached nuking them. The Japanese on the other hand were racially different, which made the decision to drop atomic bombs on them easier.

It is a historic fact that there was intense racism against Japan and the Japanese during WWII, that far exceeded any hatreds directed at the Germans. However, while there was awful racism directed at the Japanese, the theory that said racism explains why Japan was atomically bombed while Germany was not is bunk. No atomic bombs fell on German cities because Germany surrendered before the atomic bomb was ready to drop on anybody. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8th, 1945. The first atomic bomb was not successfully tested until July 16th, 1945, more than two months after Germany’s surrender.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Atomic mushroom cloud over Nagasaki. Time Magazine

8. America Saw the Development of Atomic Weapons as a Race Against the Germans

The US atomic program began with a letter from Albert Einstein to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that advised him of German research into atomic weapons, and the awful consequences if Hitler got an atomic bomb first. From the start, America’s atomic research was thus viewed and pursued as a life and death race to beat Germany to the atomic punch. The entire goal of the Manhattan Project was to develop atomic bombs to drop on Germany before Germany developed atomic bombs to drop on America and her allies. Germany was simply fortunate in that she surrendered before the Manhattan Project bore the fruits that had been intended all along for Germany.

In addition, nuclear weapons were not viewed back then with the same repugnance with which they are viewed today. They were not seen as awful and horrific last resort weapons whose use would be unthinkable except in the direst emergency. Instead, atomic bombs in the summer of 1945 were new weapons whose potential and impact had not yet been thought through. For most people at the time, an atomic bomb was simply another bomb, just a big and exceptionally destructive one. Modern abhorrence of nuclear weapons did not exist to the same extent when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. So if America had developed atomic weapons before Germany’s surrender, there would have been few compunctions about their use on German cities.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Susan B. Anthony, left, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. NJTV

7. The Awful Side of America’s Foremost Women’s Rights Activists

Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902) were great social reformers and equal rights activists who played a key role in the fight to secure the rights of America’s women. Stanton was the main force behind the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention – the first ever called for the sole purpose of discussing women’s rights. Both died before the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote, but they played key roles in laying the groundwork for its passage.

Unfortunately, as is too often true with all too many who did great good, they had an awful side. To wit, racism that seems jarring coming from such progressive icons. At one time, Stanton and Anthony were part of the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), which they formed with black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and other reformers in 1866. AERA sought to secure voting rights for both women and blacks. Within a few years, however, Stanton and Anthony went from supporters of blacks’ right to vote to opponents, and voiced their opposition in starkly racist terms.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
AERA memorial, 1867. Docs Teach

6. From Racial Progressive to Out and Out Racist

The AERA was surrounded with tensions from early on, that arose from its twin goals of securing the right to vote for both blacks and women. According to its constitution, the AERA’s mission was “to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color or sex“. In 1867, the organization conducted two major campaigns, one in New York, and the other in Kansas, to improve the political lot of both women and black Americans (and the highly oppressed group black American women).

In New York, which was rewriting its state constitution at the time, the AERA led petition drives to remove property requirements that specifically discriminated against black voters, and in support of women’s suffrage. In Kansas, the association campaigned for referenda to give both women and blacks the right the vote. However, the combination of the two goals created problems, especially from those who thought it frittered away the focus that should be devoted to one issue or the other. It set the stage for bitter feelings, and awful statements and actions by too many otherwise progressive reformers.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Encyclopedia Britannica

5. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Referred to Black Men as “Sambos”

Eventually, the AERA was wrecked because of the question of which of its twin goals, black rights or women’s rights, should be prioritized. Three years after it was founded, the association dissolved amidst bitter arguments about whether or not to support the 15th Amendment, which gave black men and naturalized immigrants the right to vote. Reasonable people could disagree on whether women or black men should be the first to get the vote. Frederick Douglass, an AERA member, wanted to support the 15th Amendment, and simultaneously back the struggle for women’s rights.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was not a reasonable person on this issue, and reacted with a Klan-like tirade. Her response to the views of Douglass was a racist speech that mocked the black men and immigrants whom the 15th Amendment would enfranchise. She made no bones about her opposition to giving black men the right to vote. Even as Stanton embraced fairness in the abstract, she publicly voiced awful racist views about black men, whom she referred to as “Sambos” and potential rapists.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. History

4. A Pioneering Reformer’s Awful Racism

Elizabeth Cady Stanton left little doubt about her racial views. As she put it in a speech opposed to the 15th Amendment’s enfranchisement of black men and immigrants: “Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for… Susan B. Anthony … [The amendment] creates an antagonism everywhere between educated, refined women and the lower orders of men, especially in the South“.

Stanton played up awful anti-black racist themes with regularity, especially in the South. There, she argued to Southerners that female voters would maintain the social order because they would balance out black voters, whom she painted as ignorant, backwards, and eager to assault white women. Not that there was much need to counter the black vote in the South: within a few years of the 15th Amendment’s passage, Southern states had effectively disenfranchised blacks. Voter suppression means ranging from removing blacks from voter rolls, to lynching blacks who dared assert their voting rights, reduced the Southern black vote to insignificance for generations.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Frederick Douglass, circa 1879. National Archives

3. Despite Being Wounded by these Early Suffragists’ Racist Attacks, Frederick Douglass Continued to Support Women’s Rights

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton supported equality for women. What they had in mind in practice, however, was not equality for all women, but only for white ones. After the Civil War, while both black and white women sought the right to vote, they had different motives. Stanton and Anthony sought the vote as symbol and substance of parity with their husbands, brothers, and fathers. By contrast, black suffragists sought the vote for both themselves and their menfolk, to empower black communities. Especially in the South, where recently emancipated black citizens were subjected to a violent reign of racist terror to keep them subservient and disempowered.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Susan B. Anthony. Wikimedia

Stanton’s and Anthony’s awful racist attacks deeply wounded Frederick Douglass, who decried “the employment of certain names such as ‘Sambo’“. However, he declined to stoop to their level and engage in tit-for-tat insults, and instead continued to support women’s rights for the rest of his life. His support was frequently snubbed, with racist insults tossed in to rub salt into the wound. At an 1890s suffrage convention in Atlanta, for example, Susan B. Anthony asked Douglass to not appear on stage with white women. As a black man, she told him, his presence alongside white women would be “inappropriate”.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Johnny Carson with seven-year-old actress Kaleena Kiff. Los Angeles Times

2. A Beloved Icon’s Awful Side

For three decades, from 1962 to 1992, Johnny Carson, born John William Carson (1925 – 2005), hosted The Tonight Show on NBC. During that time, he set the standard format and template followed by television chat shows ever since, including the guest couch and studio band. He won a Peabody Award, six Emmys, and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Carson also received a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian award.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Johnny Carson being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush in 1992. George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

He worked hard to cement his perception as the funny and neighborly Midwesterner, and perfected his friendly on-air persona. In return, Americans welcomed Carson with open arms into their living rooms as the country’s favorite late-night-host. However, when he was not in front of an audience, The King of Late Night Television, as Carson came to be known, was often a horrible human being – a bitter bully, and a mean SOB. Indeed, he was so awful that many famous figures boycotted his show – but quietly, because they feared that he might damage their careers. As seen below, Wayne Newton was an exception.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Johnny Carson. Biography

1. Johnny Carson Got Slapped Around by One of His Targets for Being a Jerk

While he was on the air, Johnny Carson was sweetness and sunshine, and the epitome of the friendly character we all wish we had as a neighbor. When not in front of the cameras and his adoring audience, however, Carson was an awful jerk who habitually bullied and abused others, and even physically assaulted people in fits of rage. Examples of Carson being a jerk include an attempt to strangle NBC colleague Tom Snyder, his refusal to visit his son who was institutionalized in a mental asylum, and his verbal and physical abuse of his wives.

These Famous People had Truly Bad Sides to their Personalities
Wayne Newton. Associated Press

Celebrities subjected to The King of Late Night TV’s abuse usually stayed quiet to protect their careers from the notoriously vindictive icon. One notable exception was singer and actor Wayne Newton, who did not find it funny when Carson cracked homosexual jokes about him on national TV. Thinking that they were buddies, Newton begged Carson to cut it out, but Carson persisted. So an incensed Newton barged into Carson’s office one day, and slapped him around silly. It was one of the few times that Carson got his comeuppance. The homosexual jokes stopped.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Libraries Magazine, June 1st, 2018 – Bringing Harassment Out of the History Books: Addressing the Troubling Aspects of Melvil Dewey’s Legacy

Bushkin, Henry – Johnny Carson (2013)

Cracked – 5 Famous Things That Were Named After Awful People

Encyclopedia Britannica – German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact

Ericson, Edward E. – Feeding the German Eagle: Soviet Economic Aid to Nazi Germany, 1933 – 1941 (1999)

Groves, Leslie R. – Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (1983)

History – History Stories: How Early Suffragists Sold Out Black Women

History Collection – Popes Behaving Badly: 8 Dreadful Papal Scandals From the Middle Ages

Independent, The, August 9th, 1995 – City Remembers Day it Escaped the Bomb

Jones, Dan – The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (2014)

Las Vegas Sun, January 24th, 2005 – Carson Had Long Vegas History

Montefiore, Simon Sebag – Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003)

Monterey County Historical Society – Land King: The Story of David Jack

National Interest, August 8th, 2018 – Operation Downfall: How America Would Have Invaded Japan

New York Times, July 28th, 2018 – How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women

Publishers Weekly, June 24th, 2019 – ALA 2019: ALA Votes to Strip Melvil Dewey’s Name From Its Top Honor

Rhodes, Richard – The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986)

Royal Institute of International Affairs, Vol. 87 No. 3 (May 2011) pp. 709-715 – Review: Russian Historians Defend the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Royal Museums, Greenwich – William Bligh

Wiegand, Wayne A. – Irresponsible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey (1996)

Wikipedia – John, King of England

Wikipedia – Operation Downfall