2022's Most Controversial Celebrity Moments

The following article includes references to antisemitism and allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Celebrities tend to do things in bigger, bolder, and more audacious ways than non-famous folks, and that's particularly true when they find themselves embroiled in scandal brought upon by their own poor decisions and bad behavior. Clearly, this is nothing new; reporting on celebrity controversies has become entrenched as something of an industry unto itself, something that becomes immediately apparent while waiting in a supermarket checkout line and perusing the vast array of salacious tabloid headlines competing for shoppers' attention.

Of course, even the merest whiff of scandal sends a celeb's team rushing to do damage control by issuing statements and hoping the public's attention becomes attracted to some other shiny object. Then, if that doesn't work, there's always the mea culpa interview — Jay Leno asking Hugh Grant "What the hell were you thinkin'?" after the latter was arrested in the act of utilizing the services of a sex worker continues to be a high-water mark when it comes to creatively facing a scandal.

Like most years, 2022 was a busy one for the publicists of certain stars, who worked overtime to try to clean up the messes made by their celebrity clients. For a more in-depth look at the foible of these scandal-ridden stars, keep on reading for a deep dive into 2022's most controversial celebrity moments.

Kanye West's antisemitic Tucker Carlson interview

At one point, it seemed like Kanye West's messy divorce from Kim Kardashian would be his biggest scandal of 2022, particularly given his social media feud with his ex's short-lived beau, Pete Davidson. That was before West unveiled his "White Lives Matter" t-shirts during Paris Fashion Week that October.

In an apparent attempt to quash the controversy, the rapper gave an interview to Fox News' Tucker Carlson. Not only did West — who had legally changed his name to Ye — not repair any of the damage in the interview that aired, he stirred up even more controversy by baselessly alleging, "There's more Black babies being aborted than born in New York City," and equating Lizzo's body acceptance with "the genocide of the Black race." West then made a string of antisemitic remarks on both social media and in interviews, as documented by Forbes, and wound up being locked out of his Twitter account after posting his plans to go "death con 3 on Jewish people" (apparently misspelling "defcon") while claiming, "I actually can't be antisemitic because Black people are actually Jew also."

The situation worsened when unaired portions of the Carlson interview were leaked, featuring even more antisemitic rhetoric. West subsequently ranted about what he called a "Jewish underground media mafia" to Chris Cuomo. Meanwhile, NBC News reported that he regularly expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler — and West shockingly did just that in a December interview with Alex Jones. West's offensive and dangerous rants led to a number of companies severing ties with him, most notably Adidas.

Neil Young vs. Joe Rogan and Spotify

In 2021, Spotify inked a deal — reportedly worth $100 million — with comedian Joe Rogan to make the streaming service the exclusive home of his wildly popular, constantly controversial podcast. It was "The Joe Rogan Experience" host's remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine, however, that raised the ire of rock icon Neil Young. Young took a hard line in January 2022, accusing Spotify of allowing Rogan to propagate vaccine misinformation, and delivered an ultimatum: If Spotify didn't dump Rogan, he'd remove all of his music from the streaming service. 

Rogan ultimately offered a sort-of apology in a 10-minute Instagram video, saying, "I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people's perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view." But Young was unmoved; his stance was then embraced by some other musicians, per the Los Angeles Times, notably India Arie, Joni Mitchell, and the other members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Young even urged Spotify employees to quit in an open letter posted on his official website. "Get out of that place before it eats up your soul," Young advised (via The Guardian).

Ultimately, Spotify chose Rogan, but Young has held fast. As of December 2022, his music remains absent from the streaming service (albeit with some exceptions). However, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash — or, at least those who own the rights to their discography — eventually relented, resulting in the awkwardness of CSNY albums being available to stream, but with Young's songs cherrypicked and removed.

Johnny Depp claimed Amber Heard 'dropped a grumpy' in their bed

Even though Johnny Depp and Amber Heard finalized their divorce in 2017, their uncoupling has been the unfortunate gift that keeps on giving to tabloid journalism. That was abundantly clear when the exes each took the stand in their 2022 defamation trial, in which Depp accused Heard of maligning his character in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed about domestic abuse. Depp ultimately emerged victorious, awarded $15 million in damages, including $5 million in punitive damages (later readjusted to $350,000), with Heard awarded $2 million (Depp later appealed Heard's win, while Heard appealed Depp's, per CNN).

While the trial featured no shortage of salacious moments, one of the most memorable involved Depp's allegation that he'd discovered feces in their bed after the two had an argument. As Entertainment Weekly reported, Depp accused Heard of being the pooper, while she blamed it on their pet Yorkies, claiming one of them suffered from chronic bowel-control issues after getting into Depp's weed stash as a puppy. Depp was skeptical. "They're teacup Yorkies," he said on the stand, insisting the turd he saw was far too large to have come out of one of the tiny dogs. "They weigh about four pounds each," he said of the pets.

Depp's testimony hit a whole new level of surprising, however, when he introduced a little-known euphemism into the proceedings by declaring, "I thought that some human being had actually dropped a grumpy — pardon the term — onto the bed."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Will Smith got slappy with it at the Oscars

The 2022 edition of the Academy Awards was shaping up to be as long and arguably dull as usual when comedian Chris Rock took to the stage of the Dolby Theatre to present an award. Addressing Jada Pinkett Smith (who'd previously revealed her diagnosis with alopecia), Rock made a controversial joke about her shaved-head look, referencing Demi Moore's similar look in 1997's "G.I. Jane." "Jada, I love you. 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it," Rock quipped.

That joke did not sit well with her husband, Will Smith. Seconds later, the "King Richard" star purposefully strode onstage and slapped Rock across the face, turning on his heel and returning to his seat. While ABC, which was airing the broadcast, immediately cut the audio, an uncensored clip made its way online. "Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me," said Rock in a mixture of shock, surprise, and amusement. Smith, having returned to the audience, then yelled out, "Keep my wife's name out your f**king mouth," then repeating that sentence word for word. While TV viewers may have wondered whether they were watching a scripted bit, as the show progressed, it became clear that it was not. The incident became even more surreal when, just a few minutes later, Smith returned to the stage — not to slap somebody else, but to accept his first Oscar

Smith was subsequently banned from the Oscars for 10 years, while his popularity with the public took a nosedive.

Olivia Wilde was served with legal docs during a presser

Actors Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis met in 2011, becoming engaged two years later. While they never tied the knot, they wound up welcoming two children. The couple's relationship had appeared solid and drama-free, but that changed in late 2020 when they announced they were separating. In early 2021, rumors began swirling that Wilde had become romantically entangled with pop star Harry Styles. That July, Sudeikis spoke out about the split for the first time, indicating he was still feeling pretty raw. "I think if you have the opportunity to hit a rock bottom, however you define that, you can become 412 bones or you can land like an Avenger," he told GQ. "I personally have chosen to land like an Avenger."

In April 2022, Wilde was onstage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas promoting her upcoming film "Don't Worry Darling," which stars Styles. As she read from a teleprompter, noted The Hollywood Reporter, a man approached the stage and handed her a manila envelope. She quickly examined the envelope's contents and returned to her presentation. Deadline subsequently reported that she was served with legal documents related to custody of her children with Sudeikis. While Sudeikis allegedly had no knowledge that his ex would be served in such a humiliatingly public way and expressed regret in court docs obtained by the Daily Mail, Wilde's lawyers claimed it was an "outrageous legal tactic."

"Sadly, it was not something that was entirely surprising to me," Wilde later told Variety. "I mean, there's a reason I left that relationship."

James Corden was banned from a restaurant for being a jerk

James Corden is popular with viewers but is far less so with the staff at New York City eatery Balthazar. The restaurant's owner, restaurateur Keith McNally, shared an Instagram post in October 2022 revealing Corden had been banned for life from his restaurants. "James Corden is a Hugely gifted comedian, but a tiny Cretin of a man," McNally wrote. "And the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago." McNally then offered a follow-up post, revealing he'd unbanned Corden after he'd apparently called him to apologize.

Corden addressed McNally's allegations (that he yelled at a server about an imperfect omelet, and angrily demanded a free round of drinks when he discovered a hair in some food) in a subsequent interview with The New York Times, declaring, "I haven't done anything wrong, on any level." That irked McNally, who returned to Instagram to admonish Corden for claiming to be blameless — even offering to let Corden dine on the house at Balthazar for a decade if he would simply apologize to the servers he'd apparently insulted. 

With the controversy escalating, Corden issued an on-air apology for his behavior in a monologue in his late-night show. "I made a rude comment. And it was wrong," Corden confessed. "It was an unnecessary comment. It was ungracious to the server." That was enough for McNally to officially bury the hatchet. "It takes a real man to do this," he wrote on Instagram.

Nick Cannon can't stop fathering children

Few humans — the Duggars aside — have taken that Biblical advice to go forth and multiply and run with it as successfully as Nick Cannon. In 2011, Cannon and then-wife Mariah Carey welcomed twins Moroccan and Monroe. In 2017, Cannon fathered son Golden Sagon with Britney Bell, with the pair then welcoming daughter Powerful Queen in 2020. In June 2021, Cannon expanded his horizons when he and Abby De La Rosa announced the arrival of twins Zion Mixolydian and Zillion Heir; just nine days later, his son with Alyssa Scott, Zen, was born (Zen tragically died of brain cancer at five months of age). 

Entering 2022 as a father of seven, Cannon was just warming up. In July, he and Brie Tiesi welcomed son Legendary Love, and in September, he fathered daughter Onyx Ice with LaNisha Cole. That same month, he and Bell had their third child together, son Rise Messiah. Then, in October, he and Scott announced they were expecting another — his 11th, and their second together — followed by Cannon revealing a couple weeks later that he and De La Rosa welcomed Zeppelin Cannon, their third child together and Cannon's 12th overall.

According to Cannon, fathering all those children with all those women represents his version of being monogamous. "I've practiced monogamy, I've been a cheater, I've been toxic," he said in a July 2022 interview with DVSN. "... One of my therapists coined what I do as consensual non-monogamy."

Prince Andrew was stripped of royal titles amid his sexual abuse lawsuit

Prior to his short-lived marriage to Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew was dubbed "Randy Andy" by the British press for his playboy ways. That unfortunate sobriquet reared its ugly head after the fallout from the Duke of York's friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and the allegations of Virginia Giuffre that Andrew sexually assaulted her at one of Epstein's homes while she was underage. She launched a lawsuit against the prince, with a judge ruling that she was within her rights to sue a royal

Thanks to the lawsuit, by January 2022, the scandal that Prince Andrew had tried so hard to quash was raging like a wildfire. That was almost certainly the cause for Andrew's royal status to be publicly downgraded. As BBC News reported, Andrew was stripped of all his military titles and royal patronages, and he was also forced to relinquish the title His Royal Highness. In addition, a Buckingham Palace statement declared, "The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen." In February, Andrew settled Giuffre's lawsuit for an undisclosed sum after failing to get the case dismissed. 

When his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died in September 2022, Andrew was forced to endure the indignity of taking part in the funeral procession and other ceremonies wearing a suit, while his siblings were adorned in full military regalia.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Aaron Rodgers' anti-vaxx views caused controversy

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was drafted by the Green Bay Packers 2005, when he was just 21. While he's long been popular in Wisconsin, his fame exploded in February 2021 when "Big Little Lies" star Shailene Woodley confirmed on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" that she and Rodgers were engaged. Rodgers went even further mainstream when news emerged that he was under consideration to host "Jeopardy!" after the death of longtime host Alex Trebek, guest-hosting for two weeks that April. Controversy subsequently emerged regarding Rodgers and the COVID-19 vaccine when, that August, NBC Sports reported Rodgers had finally confirmed he'd been vaccinated, rendering the NFL star available to play after his prior refusal to reveal his vaccination status left him benched. 

However, Rodgers revealed a few months later that he actually wasn't vaccinated, rather he'd said he was immunized. Appearing on "The Joe Rogan Experience" in August 2022 (via Insider), he further explained how he'd undergone an "immunization process through a holistic doctor" and admittedly didn't bother to correct press reports that incorrectly equated immunized with vaccinated.

In the midst of this, his relationship with Woodley imploded. In February 2022, InTouch reported the two had called off their engagement. Was his vaccination wordplay the culprit? Speculation arose when Rodgers made a public apology to Woodley during "The Pat McAfee Show" on SiriusXM. His mea culpa apparently worked, at least temporarily; Rodgers and Woodley were subsequently spotted together more than once. That reconciliation didn't take, however, and they split for good in April.

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen's out-of-the-blue divorce filing

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen took the media by surprise when, in September 2022, multiple reports of marital strife emerged, including a Page Six story claiming they'd each retained divorce lawyers. Brady confirmed the marriage was over in late October when he shared a post on his Instagram Story (as reported by ET Canada) announcing that their divorce had been finalized. 

While neither Brady nor Bündchen publicly addressed the reasons underlying the divorce, rumor had it that Brady's decision to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 40 days after announcing his retirement was simply a bridge too far for Bündchen.

In hindsight, some remarks Brady made during a 2020 appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" may hold a clue. "There was a couple years ago, she didn't feel like I was doing my part for the family," Brady said (via Insider), explaining that he would completely devote himself to football during the NFL season and then focus on his other ventures during the off season. "And she's sitting there going, 'Well, when are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take kids to school and do that?'" he said. Brady ultimately realized, "I gotta take care of things in my family because my family situation wasn't great. She wasn't satisfied with our marriage. So I needed to make a change in that."

Prince Harry's rift with the royals deepened ahead of his tell-all book

The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 was a worldwide media event, kicking off the reign of King Charles III and leading to the first funeral of a British monarch since 1952. In addition to mourning his late grandmother, Prince Harry — who'd previously signed a multimillion-dollar book deal — had his tell-all memoir scheduled to be published in late 2022. With this arguably inopportune timing, the publication date for the book — titled "Spare," referring to his status in the royal family — was subsequently pushed back to January 2023, purportedly out of respect for the late monarch.

Royal expert Shannon Felton Spence told Fox News that the rest of the royal family was bracing for impact. "Depending on the contents of this book, it could be a major reputation risk to them," she explained. 

The royals' apprehension about the dirt that "Spare" may dredge up was seemingly evident in Harry's interactions with other members of the family when he returned to London just after the queen's death. An apparent attempt was made to demonstrate family unity when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined Prince William and Kate Middleton on a walkabout outside Windsor Castle to greet mourners. "It was awkward," a source described to People, noting, "Both couples found it hard." Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that well-connected novelist Jeffrey Archer claimed that Harry was penning a brand-new chapter covering his grandmother's death and his experience at the funeral.

Billy Ray Cyrus got engaged months after his divorce filing

In April 2022, TMZ was the first outlet to report that Tish Cyrus had filed papers to divorce country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, her husband of nearly 30 years; as the outlet pointed out, that wasn't the first time that had happened, with Billy Ray filing for divorce in 2010, Tish filing in 2013, and the pair reconciling both times. 

A reconciliation this time seemed to be out of the question when, in September 2022, the "Achy Breaky Heart" singer appeared to be romantically involved with someone else: an up-and-coming singer who calls herself Firerose and is nearly 30 years his junior, per People. The following month, the Billy Ray posted a photo of himself and Firerose on Instagram. One detail of the photo led to serious speculation, since Firerose was wearing a huge diamond ring on that finger. That November, Billy Ray confirmed to People that the two were engaged.

During that same interview, Billy Ray shared the cringeworthy revelation that he and Firerose had actually met 12 years earlier on the set of "Hannah Montana," the Disney Channel TV series on which he co-starred with daughter Miley Cyrus.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's controversial Caribbean tour

In March 2022, Prince William and wife Kate Middleton embarked on a tour of the Caribbean. While the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge likely expected they'd be greeted by adoring fans while working on their respective suntans, the excursion began on a controversial note when they arrived at their first stop, Belize. 

As The Guardian reported, they were forced to cancel a visit when they learned they'd be greeted by protesters, not fans. Things went from bad to worse; by the time they arrived in Jamaica, reported People, they were met with more protests, these ones demanding reparations from the British monarchy for its role in slavery, while the country's Prime Minster Andrew Holness told them that Jamaica was "moving on" from British colonialism, adding, "We intend to ... fulfill our true ambitions and destiny to become an independent, developed, and prosperous country." That was echoed when they landed in the Bahamas, where the Bahamas National Reparations Committee issued a statement seeking slavery reparations, accusing the British monarchy of having "looted and pillaged our land and our people for centuries." 

The Independent was among the many news outlets to describe the entire tour as "tone deaf." But the controversy didn't end when the couple returned to the U.K. As the Mirror reported, outrage erupted back home due to the cost of the controversial trip: a whopping £226,000 — or, more than $277,000 in American dollars.

Adam Levine was caught sort-of cheating on his pregnant wife

Adam Levine's reputation took a major blow in October 2022 when a woman named Sumner Stroh posted a since-deleted video on TikTok claiming she'd had an affair with the Maroon 5 frontman. "At the time, I was young, I was naive, and, I mean, quite frankly, I feel exploited," she said (via The U.S. Sun), adding, "I was very easily manipulated." As evidence, the video also contained screenshots of what she alleged were text messages between the two. 

The timing of Stroh's claims was particularly awkward, considering that Levine's wife, model Behati Prinsloo, had recently revealed that she was pregnant with the couple's third child. Levine responded with a statement he shared via his Instagram Story. "I used poor judgment in speaking with anyone other than my wife in ANY kind of flirtatious manner," he wrote, as captured by Us Weekly. While he came clean about sending the flirty texts, Levine flat-out denied Stroh's claims of his infidelity. "I did not have an affair; nevertheless, I crossed the line during a regrettable period of my life," the singer added, noting that he'd "taken proactive steps to remedy this with my family."

In fact, reports later claimed that the two were trying to work things out. "Behati is upset about how everything was handled and the public aspect of it, but their goals is to be the best parents and work through things," a source cited by ET claimed. "Adam is committed to making things better with Behati."