Now that the year is nearing a close, many are taking a look in the rearview mirror at the various highs and lows that defined 2017. From the swearing in of a new U.S. president and the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to the unfathomable tragedy that befell concertgoers in Las Vegas, the past year is one that we will likely remember far into the future.
Using data from the past year, MSN editors reviewed data to identify the top stories for every week based on reader traffic, the number of headlines for each topic, and the significance of ongoing story developments in subsequent weeks. Looking back at these major events of the year is not only a reminder of what occurred over the last 12 months, but of how we can incorporate new earned perspectives on the world into a fresh 2018. Each slide represents the biggest stories of the week, and data was collected through the week of November 19, 2017.
The new year had barely started when the deadliest shooting at a U.S. airport took place in Florida. Esteban Santiago-Ruiz opened fire in Terminal 2 baggage claim at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Florida, killing five people and injuring six. The 26-year-old Iraq veteran had a history of mental health issues, and after pleading not guilty to 22 felony charges linked to the January 6 shooting, was ordered treatment while in custody for his schizophrenia. Then-President Barack Obama told ABC News, “These kinds of tragedies have happened too often during the years that I've been president. The pain, the grief, the shock that they must be going through is enormous."
The 2017 Golden Globes was in some ways predictable, with the critical darling “La La Land” running away with a record seven awards, including wins for leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. But what the public didn’t expect was a fervent, politically-charged speech from actress Meryl Streep. Upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, Streep didn’t address her career as much as calling out the president-elect Trump for mocking a disabled New York Times reporter in 2015. She went on to make an impassioned statement about the importance of keeping a free press.
On a rainy January 20 in Washington, D.C., Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Surprisingly, however, the arguably bigger story was one of attendance: while the president touted an “unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout," side-by-side photo comparisons and tallies from the MTA and others found that the inauguration crowd was about a third of the size of the crowd at President Obama’s ceremony in 2009.
The day following President Trump’s inauguration, more 50,000 women, men, and children gathered in Washington D.C. — as well as in more than 408 cities across the country (and around the world) — for the Women’s March. It was organized in protest of policies and positions taken by the president during his campaign, especially regarding human rights, women's rights, immigration reform, and freedom of religion. Speakers in D.C. included Gloria Steinem, Janet Mock, and Kamala Harris. Pink “pussyhats” were worn at the marches to reclaim the derogatory term, in response to a statement made by Trump in 2005.
Not long after President Trump took his seat in the oval office, word circulated that one of the president’s many calls with world leaders did not go as smoothly as the rest. According to senior U.S. officials, Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull butted heads when they discussed a deal made under the Obama administration that would allow refugees in Australia to resettle in the U.S — one that Trump did not agree with. “This was the worst call by far,” he allegedly told Turnbull.
During the same week, President Trump sent a directive to female staffers to “dress like women” when at work, and fired acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates for refusing to back his executive order that would prevent refugees and people from largely Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
In the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the New England Patriots turned a 25-point deficit into their fifth title, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28. More records were broken by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who became the first quarterback to earn five Super Bowl titles and four Super Bowl MVP awards. Pop sensation Lady Gaga performed the halftime show, backed by a horde of LED-carrying drones that displayed the American flag overhead.
In other news, a Mexican journalist was caught by the F.B.I. for stealing Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey, as well as another jersey and a Denver Broncos helmet.
On February 7 the Oroville Dam, a dam on the Feather River near Oroville, California, was damaged and caused the evacuation of more than 180,000 people nearby. The remarkable amount of precipitation that prompted many floods in the state damaged part of the main and emergency spillways of the dam, causing major erosion and threatened the safety of those in the vicinity. Luckily, the crisis was contained and people returned to their homes.
During a rally on February 18 in Florida, President Trump made a point to criticize countries in Europe that have been welcoming refugees, listing places with open policies and others that have suffered terrorist attacks in recent years. “You look at what’s happening,” he said. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” Many Swedes, including government officials, were unsure what the president was referring to, as no attacks of the sort had occurred the night before. Spokespeople for the White House attempted to clarify the statement, saying it was a reference to crime in Sweden in general. President Trump took to Twitter to explain that he had been referring to a Fox News story in which a filmmaker asserted that immigrants were responsible for a crime wave in Sweden.
In one of the most shocking moments in Academy Awards history, one film’s cast and crew handed their coveted Best Picture Award to another, after a flub from the award’s presenters. Warren Beatty received the wrong envelope from PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountant Brian Cullinan and announced that “La La Land” had won the Oscar for Best Picture. As the team cheered and rushed onto the stage, producer Jordan Horowitz saw the correct card, realized the error that had been made, and announced that “Moonlight” had won instead.
In a series of tweets President Trump asserted that former President Obama had tapped his phones and kept him under surveillance during the 2016 presidential campaign. Though these claims were unsubstantiated, the president continued to assert their validity throughout the year. Former FBI director James Comey told the White House Intelligence Committee, “With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Trump at the White House on March 18, Trump still had wire-tapping on the brain. On live television he said that he and Merkel had “something in common,” alluding to the contentious time in which her phone had been tapped by the National Security Agency. According to CNN, “The controversy over wiretapping overshadowed other aspects of Merkel's visit — a crucial one for US and German relations. Trump met Merkel at the front door of the West Wing, but there were signs of strained interaction a little later when they appeared before cameras in the Oval Office.”
The failure of House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (known as “Obamacare” and Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation) was widely accepted as a defeat for President Trump in his first few months in office. A significant hindrance in passing the bill was opposition from the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group who felt the bill didn’t do enough to lower insurance costs and get rid of federal regulation of insurance products. But Trump remained hopeful: “Obamacare, unfortunately, will explode,” he said. “It’s going to have a very bad year.”
During the first week of April judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first significant court nominee, was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a Senate vote of 54-45. The contentious battle in the Senate went from a Democrat-led filibuster to Republicans changing Senate rules, allowing future Supreme Court nominees to pass through the Senate with a 51-vote majority instead of the normal 60.
Though the U.S. War in Afghanistan is in its 17th year, it is still a bloody battle. This was brought home when U.S. forces dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb it had on a tunnel system thought to have been used by the Islamic State on April 13. The “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” or “mother of all bombs” hadn’t been used in combat before, and sent a mushroom cloud over the Nangarhar province of Eastern Afghanistan — a mission that Trump called “very, very successful.”
As far as the annual White House Easter Egg Roll goes, it’s safe to say that the event isn’t usually fraught with any sort of controversy. But this past April the media and public drew attention to a small moment during the day, in which First Lady Melania Trump subtly nudged her husband to put his hand on his heart during the national anthem. This isn’t the first time a president has been scrutinized for forgetting to pay proper respect to the anthem (Obama was criticized for saluting a Marine with a coffee in his hand in 2014), but the public made it clear that they noticed.
A video of a United Airlines passenger getting dragged off of an overbooked flight went viral on April 9 and caused outrage from travelers around the country. David Dao, the doctor at the center of the video, reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount later in the month. In addition to making a statement that both parties had ended things on better terms, United announced the steps it would be taking to prevent this kind of event from ever occurring again.
President Trump was met with outcry and mockery after he suggested that Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War. During an interview with Washington Examiner reporter Salena Zito, the president said, "I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart,” he continued. “He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. There's no reason for this." Because Jackson had died about 16 years before the start of the Civil War, political rivals and more questioned his knowledge of U.S. history.
On May 9, President Trump fired F.B.I. Director James Comey, who had been leading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. Democrats reacted immediately by calling for a special counsel to take over the Russia inquiry. The president, however, claimed that he had based his decision on Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Andrew G. McCabe, a deputy of Comey’s, became acting director after the latter was fired.
Closely following the firing of James Comey, the Justice Department appointed former F.B.I. director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to lead the investigation on connections between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. According to the New York Times, “By appointing Mr. Mueller, a former federal prosecutor with an unblemished reputation, [Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein] could alleviate uncertainty about the government’s ability to investigate the questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russians.”
The week of May 22 was a harrowing one for those across the pond and around the world. At an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, 22 people (including children) were killed and over 500 were injured in a suicide bombing. This came only two months after five people were killed in a terrorist attack in near Westminster in London. Despite this terrible event, however, a benefit concert to honor the victims of the attack was held in Manchester Arena later in September, featuring Grande, Miley Cyrus, and other big names.
Later that week, President Trump traveled to Brussels to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and other NATO leaders. The news that rose above the content of these policy discussions was about handshakes, surprisingly enough — more specifically President Trump and Macron’s attempts at giving the firmest handshake.
Comedian Kathy Griffin was widely criticized for a graphic photo taken by Tyler Shields in which she held a replica of President Trump’s bloody, decapitated head. Shields is known for taking provocative photos, but this particular image caused outrage from those close to the president (his son Donald Jr. called it “disgusting”) and prompted an apology from Griffin. The next day, however, Griffin was fired from her regular job hosting CNN’s New Years Eve program.
Ex-F.B.I. Director James Comey spoke publicly for the first time since his termination at a congressional hearing on June 8. In his testimony, he alleged that the president had urged him to halt his investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia — specifically in Comey’s investigation of ex-security adviser Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go," Comey quoted the president. He also said that he believed his unwillingness to stop this work was what truly prompted his termination. “I was fired in some way to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,’’ Comey said. “That is a big deal.”
Three major events were the subject of most headlines during this week in early June. First Lady Melania Trump and 11-year-old Barron Trump moved from New York City to the White House. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 13 to testify about Russia’s interference with the 2016 general election. Much of his testimony was peppered with an inability to recall a lot of discussion and events that went on during the campaign. Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was detained in North Korea for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and hard labor. He was released after 17 months, however, when North Korean officials said he had fallen into a coma for unknown reasons.
Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff by a hair in the special election for Georgia’s historically red 6th District. Many Democrats felt like this was a hard blow, as this election was seen as a “referendum” on Trump’s presidency, according to Vice.
In more somber news, six days after being released and brought to the U.S. for medical evaluation, 22-year-old Otto Warmbier never regained consciousness from his coma and died. Though North Korean officials said that Warmbier had gone into a coma due to a mix of botulism and a sleeping pill, doctors found no signs of botulism. There were no signs of torture, either, though some U.S. officials blamed the North Koreans for his death.
President Trump went after MSNBC “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in a series of tweets: “I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!" Trumptweeted. Scarborough said that nothing in his report that day could have promoted such an outburst, but Brzezinski later tweeted a pointed photo in retaliation.
In Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate in Virginia, archaeologists uncovered slave quarters in which Sally Hemings, who was an enslaved woman, would have lived. Historians believe that she gave birth to six of the former president’s children. Director of restoration Gardiner Hallock said that this discovery gives us a clearer picture of how those who were enslaved lived.
According to confidential government records revealed to the New York Times, Donald Trump, Jr. met with “a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer” during his father’s 2016 campaign. The meeting was also attended by Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort and President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. This news was widely regarded as further evidence pointing to collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned from his position in the White House after opposing the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. The latter later announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would take over his post. President Trump said of Spicer that he was “grateful for Sean's work on behalf of my administration and the American people. I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings."
Following Maine Sen. Susan Collins on September 22, Arizona Sen. John McCain cast the deciding vote in halting the last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. McCain’s dramatic thumbs down for the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill caused gasps and unrest on the Senate floor. Of his decision, the senator stated, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried."
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was fired from his post after only 10 days on the job. Newly appointed chief of staff John F. Kelly asserted his authority by terminating Scaramucci, who is known for his strong personality. Unfortunately, Scaramucci’s tough attitude got him in trouble after a New Yorker reporter shared a rant in which Scaramucci criticized Reince Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist.
Despite suffering sanctions from the United Nations the weekend before, North Korea tested the patience of world leaders yet again by conducting an intermediate-range missile test. This test was regarded as a threat to the U.S., as it was made clear that if the missile was fired in the right direction, it would hit the U.S. military base in Guam, about 2,100 miles away. "North Korea's adept use of threats, of rhetoric, of provocations; they would love to see division of various kinds between the United States and Japan -- and between the United States and South Korea," said Tom Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
On Friday, August 11, white supremacists carried torches and marched on the University of Virginia campus to protestthe removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The next day they clashed with counter-protesters and as a result, a car rammed into anti-Nazi protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. President Trump reacted by saying that Americans must condemn hate, but was criticized by later saying that the hate came from “both sides.”
Just as President Trump began to speak publicly about the deadly violence of the Charlottesville, Virginia protest, strategist and former head of far-right Breitbart News Steven K. Bannon was fired from his post in the White House. According to the New York Times, Mr. “Trump had recently grown weary of Mr. Bannon, complaining to other advisers that he believed his chief strategist had been leaking information to reporters and was taking too much credit for the president’s successes.”
On August 21 Americans throughout the country went outside to witness one of the major astronomical events of the decade — a full solar eclipse that cast a shadow from coast to coast for the first time since 1918. Those in the “path of totality” (an area in the direct path of the Moon’s shadow) saw the sun go dark. Many people made special goggles with which to safely view the event and beautiful photos of the natural phenomenon inspired awe around the world.
The first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in 12 years, Hurricane Harvey descended on Houston, Texas, causing major flooding and more than $200 billion in damage. The wettest tropical cyclone on record ruined homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. According to Voice of America, the damage will affect Houston for years to come.
Yet another hurricane, this time a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane with some of the highest recorded power, ripped through many Caribbean islands that were once regarded as idyllic paradises. According to the New York Times it left more than 60% of households in Puerto Rico without power and 95% of the island of St. Martin was destroyed. Half of Barbuda was left homeless and more than 27 deaths were recorded.
After causing major damage in the Caribbean, the storm, despite being downgraded to a Category 3, hit the Florida Keys and parts of Miami, Tampa and, St. Petersburg, inundating the streets with over two feet of water. More than a million homes went without power and more than 6.3 million people in Florida were told to evacuate.
Much of the news surrounding the devastation that Hurricane Maria laid on Puerto Rico went beyond the developing humanitarian crisis and was focused on what many viewed as a slow federal relief response. For example, according to the Atlantic, while 22,000 troops and 33 ships arrived in Haiti two weeks after the magnitude-7 earthquake struck in 2010, only about 7,200 members of the military were sent to Puerto Rico after the same time period. According to an official poll, Hurricane Maria caused 1,052 deaths and two months later, in November, much of the island continued to lack electricity.
In the same week that President Trump addressed the U.N. for the first time, focusing on Kim Jong-un, who he nicknamed “Rocket Man”, and North Korea. The president said, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."
Roy Moore, a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (who was supported by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) to win the Republican Senate Primary. According to the Washington Post, this win sent “a clear warning to President Trump and GOP leadership that conservative grass-roots anger will continue to roil the party into the 2018 midterm elections.”
In the deadliest mass shooting in US history, on the night of October 1 Nevada local Stephen Paddock opened fire on a Las Vegas music festival from the window of a Mandalay Bay hotel room. Leaving 58 dead and 546 injured, the shooting rocked the nation as concert-goers were left out in the open to flee the horrific scene.
Just days later on October 5, the New York Times released the first article describing allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood exec Harvey Weinstein, brought by a multitude of former employees. Kicking off what has become one of the largest ongoing stories of the year, the article led to not only the speedy ouster of Weinstein from his own company, but dozens of other women coming out with similar stories about a number of entertainment figures, giving a voice to a "whisper network" that existed for decades in the industry.
Wildfires in Northern California ravaged large areas of wine country, destroying 5,700 homes and businesses and killing at least 40. MSN reported that according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection “some 220,000 acres have been scorched across the state — a collective area bigger than the city of Dallas — as ‘red flag’ conditions spread the fires with frightening speed.”
In response to the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and more across the film industry in the weeks following the damning exposé, actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet inspired by activist Tarana Burke’s “Me Too” movement in 2009. Milano repopularized the movement by urging women to write “me too” on social media if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Though Milano expected that this would give the issue more of a face and spread awareness, she probably didn’t expect the tweet to launch a viral campaign that would spread worldwide, culminating in 1.7 million tweets and 12 million Facebook posts since its inception.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller started his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election in May, and a few months later the first charges in the Russia probe were due to be revealed. On Oct. 30, three former Trump campaign officials — former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and businessman Rick Gates were each charged with various crimes connected to Russia and the election.
According to Mueller’s team, Papadopoulos lied to the F.B.I. about his contact with high-level Russian connections, and the other two were charged with “2-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine,” according to the Washington Post. Mueller’s investigations will continue into the new year.
In what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called a “particularly cowardly act of terror," eight people were killed and about 12 were injured after a man drove a pickup truck into the West Side Highway bicycle path in lower Manhattan, near the World Trade Center. The incident is being investigated as an act of terrorism, as a note was found near the truck claiming that the attack was made in the name of ISIS.
A man in Sutherland Springs, Texas opened fire on a group of churchgoers at a small Baptist church, killing 26 people ages 5 to 72. It was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas’ history. A nearby resident of Sutherland Springs and former National Rifle Association instructor shot back at the gunman with his own rifle and pursued the shooter along with another man until the shooter was found dead in his vehicle.
On November 9 Leigh Corfman told the Washington Post that in 1979 Roy Moore (who was campaigning for the Alabama Senate seat in early December) sexually assaulted her when he was in his 30s and she was only 14 years old. Three more women came forward with similar allegations, which Moore denied: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democratic Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” he said.
Just before the Alabama Senate special election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators called for Roy Moore’s withdrawal from the Alabama senate race as sexual assault allegations from women who knew him in their teens began to crop up. President Trump showed continued support for Moore, saying that the GOP “needed him” to push through the party’s agenda. Moore ultimately lost.
At the same time, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct by six women, alleging that he groped and made some improper advances towards them. The senator released a lengthy apology. One of the most senior Democratic senators, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, said of Franken’s conduct, “This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter.” Franken resigned in early December.
On Monday, November 20, 1960s cult leader Charles Manson died of natural causes in California State Prison at age 83. The sadistic figure was charged with urging his followers to commit murders around the Los Angeles area in 1969, killing seven and inflicting a total of 169 stab wounds. The details of the events, including his followers writing "pig" in the victims' blood on the walls and front door of two homes, shook the nation and went down in infamy.