Stories that raised the most eyebrows in 2009

When TV show host Howie Mandel uttered the words “Deal or no deal,” who knew he’d be outlining U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s strategy for buying — I mean winning — votes for his health care reform bill?

The congressional health care fight, the economy, the mortgage crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: those were among the top 10 stories of the year.

But what about the other end of the news spectrum?

The sordid story of O.J. Simpson and the missing memorabilia edged out Gov. Jim Gibbons’ text message liaison with Kathy Karrasch for the best of the worst stories of 2008.

Those were a couple of sick puppies, but they’re almost tame compared to this year’s biggest losers in the 20th anniversary edition of my Bottom 10.

No. 10. PHILLIES’ FANATIC: MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren has a lot to be proud of after managing to open the $8.5 billion CityCenter project. But chances are good he won’t be bragging about his minor league playing days after it was revealed he had overstated his athletic résumé as a member of the Phillies’ organization.

No. 9. SENATOR SNIDE: Reid tells Las Vegas Review-Journal advertising boss Bob Brown he hopes the newspaper goes out of business. Publisher Sherman Frederick reminds Reid who buys ink by the barrel.

No. 8. GOODMAN’S GAFFE: I know what you’re thinking: which one? When a tipsy Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman calls a local woman a “short, fat Bette Midler” during a charity auction, it proves the possible gubernatorial candidate needs a governor on his mouth.

No. 7. NINA’S NO-NO: When a local car repair owner shop gets in a jam thanks to a KTNV-TV, Channel 13 investigative reporter, station anchor Nina Radetich is surreptitiously recorded offering the assistance of her boyfriend to help with the owner’s PR problems. Radetich gets ripped, but keeps her job.

No. 6. LOWDEN BOMBS: When Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Sue Lowden follows a radio chat host’s lead and makes light of an attempt to bomb then-Gaming Commissioner Harry Reid, she winds up with political powder burns.

No. 5. KROLICKI’S CAKEWALK: Proving not all his luck is bad, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki sees charges he misused millions of dollars in state funds dismissed. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is now the one working to salvage her once-shiny image.

No. 4. GRAVEL BRAINS: When juice-heavy Las Vegas Paving wins a lucrative road contract despite being underbid by more than $4 million, it makes County Commission observers wonder whether its members have rocks between their ears.

No. 3. TEA PARTY POOPERS: When the made-for-TV anti-tax tea party hits town, there’s talk of revolution. When it leaves, so do the news cameras, and the movement falls flat. The party poopers spend the rest of the summer shouting at members of Congress in town hall meetings.

No. 2. SANFORD & SONS: UNLV’s sorry football team finally loses enough games by wide enough margins to force the ouster of nice-guy coach Mike Sanford. The new coach has little left to salvage.

No. 1. ENSIGN’S EMBARRASSMENT: Meet U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-No-Tell Motel, the gift who keeps on giving. After falling off his Christian high horse and admitting an affair with staffer Cindy Hampton, who happened also to be his pal’s wife, it was learned his parents attempted to smooth over the affair with $96,000.

That buys a lot of aspirin, but it will take more than that to cool the anger of Hampton’s husband, Doug.

When his ham-handed attempt to find Hampton work backfires, it ensures the Ensign affair and the damage it inflicts on Senator Sanctimony’s political career will continue to bleed far into 2010.

With that kind of hemorrhaging, you’d think Ensign would have voted for health care reform.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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