As the 2016 presidential race inches to a close, it brought out some of the best — and definitely the worst — qualities of a 24-hour news cycle. Through all the debates, town halls, and talking-head brawls, here are Variety‘s 15 media winners and losers from a historic race to the White House.
1. Winner: Megyn Kelly
The Fox News Channel anchor will be remembered for being the first reporter to seriously challenge Donald Trump on his misogynistic behavior toward women at the August 2015 Republican primary debates. And she’s been a voice of reason for the network with her tough but fair questions on “The Kelly File,” challenging both Republicans and Democrats alike and further cementing her status as Fox News’ biggest star.
2. Loser: Billy Bush
His laughter and encouragement of Donald’s Trump creepy comments about women from a leaked 2005 tape cost Bush his job as the co-anchor of the fourth hour of “Today.” It’s unclear how long it will be before anyone thinks about hiring the “Access Hollywood” host to toss softballs at celebrities, but his brand could be permanently damaged.
3. Winner: Samantha Bee
With her old “Daily Show” boss Jon Stewart sitting this election out, Bee gave voice to left-leaning comedy fans horrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency. Her TBS show, “Full Frontal,” offered up the year’s most biting political satire, skewering the Donald as “America’s burst appendix,” a “demagoguing bag of candy corn,” and a “tangerine-tinted trashcan fire.” When it came to the 2016 election, no comic was sharper…or drew more blood.
4. Loser: Matt Lauer
The “Today” host was out of his depth as the journalist tasked with grilling the candidates at a Commander in Chief forum in early September. Instead of digging into the topic of terrorism at the event attended by members of the military, he got sidetracked with old queries about Clinton’s private email server and allowed Trump to falsely claim he’d been against invading Iraq.
5. Winner: Ana Navarro
The Republican contributor for CNN and Telemundo was a star of many pundit panels in 2016. Often quarreling with members of her own party, Navarro repeatedly went viral on social media, by taking Trump to task for his racist politics and standing up for victims of sexual harassment and assault. Her future on TV looks bright past Election Day.
6. Loser: Corey Lewandowski
The former Trump campaign manager landed a CNN contract after getting kicked off the bus. But the hard-charging strategist, credited with “letting Trump be Trump,” wilted under the lights, rarely offering any meaningful commentary. Perhaps he got spooked by a non-disparagement clause that Trump made him sign, but Lewandowski made for boring TV.
7. Winner: Kellyanne Conway
Managing Trump isn’t easy, but the Republican standard-bearer’s campaign manager somehow found a way to defend her candidate’s outrageous tweets, failure to release his tax returns and sexual harassment allegations. She was such a smooth surrogate, she even got her own impersonation (by Kate McKinnon) on “Saturday Night Live.” A career on cable news, or Trump TV, seems preordained, as does a book deal.
8. Loser: Elaine Quijano
The job of moderating this year’s vice-presidential debate proved tricky. Mike Pence seemed to exist in an alternate reality from his ticket, and Tim Kaine was running for the title of interruptor-in-chief. But CBS News anchor Quijano wasn’t able to successfully quiz either candidate, and her boring questions made the night worse. Could she really not find time to ask Pence about his dismal track record on LGBTQ rights?
9. Winner: Chris Wallace
On the other hand, the Fox News anchor gave a masterclass in presidential debate moderating. After two brutal, mudslinging match-ups, in which moderators seemed helpless to keep Trump and Clinton from devolving into personal attacks, Wallace served as ringmaster for the final standoff between the White House contenders. He grilled both candidates about foreign policy, healthcare, and the Supreme Court, and showed that when you ask about tough questions, you get substantive answers.
10. Loser: Jimmy Fallon
Nobody would expect the host of “The Tonight Show” to perform double duties as “Meet the Press.” But when given the opportunity to interview both candidates, on the eve of one of the nation’s most important elections, the last thing you should be doing is playing with Donald Trump’s hair.
11. Winner: Brian Stelter
The host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” had a banner year with his reporting and analysis about the media’s ups and downs in covering this year’s race to the White House. And he also deserves props for calling out Trump for his damaging rhetoric about a “rigged” election.
12. Loser: Rudy Giuliani
“America’s Mayor” turned into Trump’s attack dog. No morning show was safe from his snarling, no post-debate spin room complete without his manic ramblings. Giuliani even went where shrinking violet Chris Christie refused to go — defending Trump for his “pussy grabbing” comments. His legacy may not recover.
13. Winner: Nicolle Wallace
The former GOP strategist and “View” co-host was clearly horrified about the waste that Trump laid to the traditional Republican values, faulting the presidential nominee for his protectionist, isolationist and borderline racist views. As a commentator for NBC News, Wallace spoke for the establishment wing, helping to illustrate the deep divides that Trump has exposed in both his country and the party of Lincoln and Reagan.
14. Loser: Anthony Weiner
How many endings can there be to a single career? The former disgraced Congressman-turned-talking-head-turned-disgraced mayoral candidate somehow managed to hijack this year’s election with his latest scandal. He may have started to rehabilitate his image with the Sundance documentary “Weiner,” but any hopes for a TV career are certainly dead, given that he could potentially face jail time for sexting with a minor.
15. Winner: David Fahrenthold
The Washington Post reporter delivered the biggest bombshell of the campaign with his story on Trump’s hot mic comments about assaulting women. He even scooped NBC, the network that had the tape, on its own story.