Celebrity Scandals Everyone Pretends Never Happened

Hollywood is notoriously unforgiving, and a good scandal can ruin an actor's decades-long career faster than the legal system can prosecute all of Tinseltown's inevitable child star DUIs. Sex tapes, leaked photos, drug arrests — tabloids live for the moment a celebrity falls from grace. A Disney star's mugshot is rarer than the Holy Grail and worth just as much in AdSense revenue.

Luckily for celebs, actual fans aren't nearly as fickle. If they love someone enough, they'll do anything to pretend a scandal never happened — at least that's the only way to explain Chris Brown's baffling, award-winning career. The music star racks up disturbing domestic assault allegations and convictions like they're Grammy Awards. In other cases, celebs really do change. The Mark Wahlberg of today is a far cry from his past as a troubled teen (including a few less tattoos). Reese Witherspoon doesn't deserve to lose her crown as America's sweetheart just because she lost her cool that one time, and it's never — never — too soon to stop talking about Matthew McConaughey playing bongos naked. In fact, we're still actively trying to block that one from our memories. You catch our drift? These once-disgraced stars endured some pretty big scandals, but for one reason or another, everyone pretends they never happened.

Bruno Mars was two dance moves away from becoming a felon

Bruno Mars has hit every possible career milestone a musician could hit. He's performed at the Super Bowl, amassed a mammoth collection of Grammys, and even charmed the nation in an episode of "Carpool Karaoke" – the true test of "making it" in the biz. It seems like everything Mars touches turns to 24K Magic. Yep, we all like to pretend the Marvin Gaye reincarnate can do no wrong (never mind all those copyright lawsuits.) As much as our memories would like to forget, there was once a time when Bruno Mars almost uptown funk-ed up his entire career with a felony cocaine charge.

In 2010, Mars was arrested in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel after he was nabbed with 2.6 grams of what E! News describes as a "white powdery substance believed to be cocaine." Shocker: it was, in fact, cocaine. He was charged with felony cocaine-possession, but that was dismissed after he performed 200 hours of community service, paid a $2,000 fine, and underwent eight hours of drug counseling, reported E! News. Much like the judge who let Mars off easy, we'd all prefer to think of this superstar in the context of serving us strawberry champagne on ice rather than skiing down the dangerous white slopes of cocaine abuse.

Reese Witherspoon was totally not arrested for disorderly conduct

We refuse to acknowledge or admit that America's sweetheart — the same woman who starred in wholesome family features such as "Legally Blonde" and made a heartfelt, empowering speech at Glamour's Women of the Year Awards — could ever get arrested. In the same breath that Elle Woods wouldn't be caught dead with poorly plucked, uneven eyebrows, Witherspoon doesn't appear to have a disorderly bone in her body. Yet, here we are begging Reese Witherspoon's pixelated mugshot to just be someone else.

Witherspoon was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2013 after her husband, Jim Toth, was pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence. To make matters worse, our fair lady of "Sweet Home Alabama" pulled the "Do you know who I am?" card — a move favored by child stars who've gone off-the-rails. Witherspoon was arrested on a Friday, and by that Sunday night, the star had released a heartfelt apology. "I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said. It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse," she said, adding "I'm very sorry for my behavior."

Witherspoon wound up getting nominated for an Oscar not long after that debacle, and The Washington Post even claimed the arrest saved her career (which we weren't aware needed saving in the first place). Today, it's just a blip that we confuse with something that happened on "Big Little Lies," rather than real life.

Matthew McConaughey's naked bongo incident was just a bad dream

Over the last couple years, we've managed to completely wipe Matthew McConaughey's naked bongo incident from our brains. He's been so busy repping Lincolns that we're more apt to think of him as an Uber driver rather than that annoying frat kid from Freshman year who incessantly bragged about making a bong from an apple. Remember, his certified best role was as David Wooderson in "Dazed and Confused." Are you completely sure David Wooderson wasn't the one walking around in the buff slapping some bongos?

Unfortunately, it was actually McConaughey who did this baffling deed. In 1999, he was busted on suspicion of marijuana possession. According to the infamous police report, he was dancing around naked playing bongo drums while another man cheered. The charges were dropped, and McConaughey nonchalantly described his visit to the slammer as somewhere he wouldn't want to "rent a place" but  "it was a nice stay for a night."

These days, McConaughey mostly keeps his clothes on. He's even managed to transition into heavy roles in flicks such as "Dallas Buyers Club" and the HBO series "True Detective." And though most of us forgot about it, he doesn't regret a thing. "What's wrong with beating on your drums in your birthday suit? I have no regrets about the way I got there," he told Playboy (via the New York Daily News).

Ashton Kutcher is too busy saving the world to worry about an affair

Ashton Kutcher is a modern day superhero. The actor even took a reprieve from Hollywood to fight human trafficking, an endeavor he calls his new "day job." Kutcher is the chair of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an organization he founded with then-wife Demi Moore in 2009. With all the good work Kutcher's done (he helped law enforcement identify 6,000 trafficking victims in just six months), it feels petty to harp on the years-old cheating rumors that once graced national headlines and sparked Moore's alleged mental breakdown.

In 2011, reports surfaced that Kutcher cheated on Moore with two girls in a hot tub on his sixth wedding anniversary. Actor Scott Eastwood claimed one of the infamous women was his then-girlfriend. Kutcher went on to divorce Moore, marry actress Mila Kunis, and have a couple kids. K-squared is a match made in TV heaven (Kutcher was Kunis' first kiss as co-stars on "That '70s Show"), so most of us have completely forgotten Moore was ever in the picture. Kutcher even joked about those infidelity rumors while accepting an award for being an astounding role model. During the 2017 speech, he mentioned that he  "may or may not" be an adulterer and gave nod to the time he was arrested for "felony burglary" after trying to break into his high school. Then, he dedicated the award to Kunis and everyone melted.

So, no one is going to acknowledge Chris Brown's insane SWAT team standoff?

Chris Brown is known for some pretty abhorrent things. There's that time he brutally battered Rihanna, and the time he was slapped with a restraining order after allegedly threatening to "beat the s**t" out of then-girlfriend Karrueche Tran. Amidst all those negative relationship headlines, it's easy to forget that Brown also had a day-long standoff with a SWAT team. 

The incident began when Brown allegedly pulled a gun on a woman. She ran outside, where she was allegedly told she could get back her phone if she signed a non-disclosure agreement. She refused, snatched the phone away from Brown's associate and ran, reported the Los Angeles Times. Brown reportedly followed her in a Jeep, but she escaped into a neighbor's yard and hid under an SUV. The neighbor called the police. Brown reportedly refused to let law enforcement in his home without a warrant, so police set up camp outside, as Brown embarked on a bizarre police standoff-slash-Instagram rant as helicopters circled overhead. Brown was eventually arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon.

All that, and yet fans seem to wear blinders when it comes to Brown's behavior. He went on to win Grammy and MTV Awards after the incident involving Rihanna, and when Spotify removed numerous abusers from its official playlists in May 2018, Brown's catalog remained untouched.

Rob Lowe had a threesome with a 16-year-old and escaped unscathed

In the #MeToo era, it's pretty shocking that everyone seems to ignore the 1989 sex tape Rob Lowe shot with an underage girl. According to Yahoo, the "St. Elmo's Fire" alum was in his early 20s when he picked up two women at a club after partying with fellow Brat Pack members Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson. The girls agreed to be videotaped, and Lowe filmed their enthusiastic romp. The video was circulated around the world, which wouldn't necessarily have been a huge deal had one of the participants not been 16 years old.

Lowe believed the girl was at least 21 because he picked her up at a club. Unfortunately, after the video surfaced, he was slapped with a lawsuit by the teen's mother, and his scandal was plastered across tabloids. He received a mere 20 hours of community service for taping a sexual encounter with a partner under 18, and his career barely suffered. The following year, Lorne Michaels let Lowe host "SNL," and everything was more or less forgotten. Today, Lowe is better known for his work on "Parks and Recreation" than his sex tape, which was the subject of more than a few jokes at his Comedy Central Roast. It's almost like he didn't actually have a threesome with a 16-year-old, right?

Vanessa Hudgens' nude photo scandal has no place at Coachella

The year 2007 was the start of something new for "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens. The then 18-year-old found her face plastered across tabloids when her nude photos leaked online. Tabloids love a good story about a Disney star gone bad, but the scandal was traumatic for the actual Disney star. If the sting of having the nation gawk at your barely legal nudes wasn't enough, Hudgens had to endure the embarrassment of telling her mom (who was pretty cool about the whole thing) and issuing an apology so Disney wouldn't drop her from "High School Musical 3." "That was just a really s****y situation that sucked," she told Glamour. "That was by far the worst moment of my career."

Today, no one really cares that Hudgens showed us her junk. It was forgotten just as quickly as the Wildcats' graduated high school (as if Disney Channel was going to drop the star of one of its most lucrative made-for-TV films). Today, Hudgens is better known for romping around Coachella in flower crowns than she is for disappointing the oh-so powerful house of mouse.

Are we all just going to pretend Tim Allen is dad of the year?

Tim Allen has crafted a career based on his image as a family man — he's the wholesome all American dad you can't help but love, but the lovable pop is better suited for a role in "Bad Santa" than "The Santa Clause." Before he became Tim Taylor, Allen served a 28-month sentence for trafficking cocaine, and it could have been a whole lot worse.

According to Defamer, Allen was nabbed by undercover state troopers at the Kalamazoo airport after selling one-and-a-half pounds of cocaine for a whopping $42,000. He ended up taking a plea deal in exchange for information. As a result, the most serious charges were dropped, saving him from a mandatory life sentence (which means we'd never have gotten "Home Improvement" and life would have no meaning). After the experience, Allen swiftly turned his life around. He went from jail time to Tool Time, and today most of us either don't know about his sordid past or pretend the entire thing never happened. How could the same man who lent his voice to the heroic Buzz Lightyear be a high-volume drug dealer? "Infinity and beyond" doesn't begin to describe the amount of forgiveness Allen's been given.

Mark Wahlberg's rap sheet is almost as long as his IMDB page

Mark Wahlberg should be a case study in how to rehab an image. The former rapper transformed himself from violent, teenage criminal to an Oscar nominee, restaurateur, and all-around adorable dude with a charming Boston accent (making a Boston accent charming is a feat in itself). The Mark Wahlberg of the 1980s wasn't nearly as endearing.

Before the young star rose to fame as Marky Mark, he had a hand in a string of violent hate crimes and felonies. The most violent occurred just weeks shy of his 17th birthday, reported the Daily Beast. In 1988, Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder after striking a Vietnamese resident in the head with a stick and calling him a "Vietnam f*****g s**t." The man was knocked unconscious. After fleeing the scene, Wahlberg was approached by a Vietnamese bystander, who he punched in the eye. The man was left partially blind. Wahlberg pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison. He served 45 days.

Since then, Wahlberg has apologized and petitioned for a criminal pardon. He has lasered off most of the tattoos he associated with his troubled youth, and he's aligned himself with sappy, family comedies such as "Daddy's Home." The horrific, racially-charged murder attempt is just a relic of his troubled upbringing, so his publicist probably deserves an award.

Saying 'I did it' saved Hugh Grant's career

With disgustingly charming roles in heart-melting rom-coms such as "Love, Actually," "Bridget Jones Diary" and "Music and Lyrics," it's almost impossible to imagine Hugh Grant as the kind of guy who'd pick up a prostitute. How would that even go? "I'm terribly sorry, miss, but if you wouldn't mind, maybe you could possibly allow me to pay you for some sex. If that's quite all right?" Who knows, but it definitely happened.

The summer of 1995 was difficult for Grant. It's hard to tell which was worse: His performance in "Nine Months" or the fact that he paid a prostitute $60 for oral sex and was promptly arrested. Though he apologized (to the public and longtime girlfriend Liz Hurley), his mugshot was plastered across every tabloid. To make matters worse, the sex worker spilled the beans (and toast) about their back-alley romp. She claimed Grant told her he "always wanted to sleep with a black woman," reported The Guardian.

On the legal side, Grant's issues were short-lived. He had to pay a $1,000 fine (nothing to a mega-star). It's his image that would momentarily suffer, but in a move the Independent hailed as "the greatest PR move of all time," Grant simply went on TV, admitted his faults, and that was that. Today, his arrest is like some weird British-themed fever-dream we can't really say happened for sure (unless we take a peek at some vintage Jay Leno).

Lisa 'Left-Eye' Lopes burned down her boyfriend's house for revenge

TLC was one of the most successful girl groups in history. With hits such as "Waterfalls" and "No Scrubs," the ladies have sold more than 65 million albums worldwide and count four Grammys among their numerous accolades. Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who tragically passed away in a car wreck days before her 31st birthday, left behind a legacy — one that most of us forget includes felony arson.

In 1994, Lopes had a dispute with her then-boyfriend, football star Andre Rison. When Rison attempted to leave, Lopes allegedly threw his shoes in a bathtub and lit them on fire. The mansion burned to the ground. Lopes turned herself into the police, was tried for felony arson, and received a $10,000 fine with five years' probation in a halfway house. About a year later, Lopes and TLC filed for bankruptcy after being sued by Lloyd's of London, the company that insured Rison's home.

TLC managed to claw its way back to the top, and after Lopes passed away, most of us forgot her scandal all together. TLC even launched a Kickstarter to crowdfund its first (and final) album without Lopes, which raised more than $400,000. Moral of the story: do go chasing waterfalls because they might put out the fire you started in your ex's house.

David Letterman cheated on his wife with staff members

Former host of "The Late Show" David Letterman almost got away with a cheating scandal involving a female staff member on his show. We rarely hear about the affair these days, but it was once a topic that dominated headlines. In the '00s, Letterman had an inappropriate workplace romance with Stephanie Birkitt, who was once an intern at "The Late Show." Birkitt was also seeing CBS News producer Robert Halderman at the time. Meanwhile, Letterman was dating his now-wife Regina Lasko. Halderman read about the affair in Birkitt's diary and set out to blackmail Letterman.

The producer wrote a screenplay about Letterman's workplace romances and offered to sell it to the late night host for $2 million. If Letterman didn't take him up on the offer, Halderman planned to release the scandal to the public. The TV personality contacted law enforcement and they eventually busted Halderman for blackmail. Unfortunately for Letterman, his cheating was further explored in an article from The New York Post. He later addressed the scandal during an episode of his talk show. "I have had sex with women on the show," Letterman revealed to his audience. "Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would — especially for the women."

Michael Richards went on a racist rant during a stand-up gig

Former "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards shouted racial slurs at audience members during a stand-up gig in 2006. The interaction took place after the comedian took the stage at Hollywood's Laugh Factory. Video footage shared by TMZ documented the disturbing incident. In the clip, Richards can be heard shouting, "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your a**. You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf***er." He then went on to repeatedly shout racial slurs at the audience member and even the crowd seemed shocked.

Richards issued an apology for his behavior during an appearance on "Late Show with David Letterman." However, the audience can be heard laughing in the background and the actor questioned whether the show was an appropriate platform for his apology. He reflected on the incident years later during an interview with Us Weekly. "I'd only been doing stand-up at the time that situation happened about seven or eight months and I just lost my patience that night because people were heckling me and not letting me work on my material and I lost my cool. And it is what it is! I've moved on," Richards said. The comedian also shared he questioned whether he was even a good fit for stand-up comedy after his outburst.

A hacker shared David DeLuise's nude photos

Former Disney Channel actor David DeLuise might be most well-known for his role as Jerry Russo on "Wizards of Waverly Place." The kid-friendly nature of the show doesn't mesh well with a nude photo scandal DeLuise found himself involved in back in 2018. The actor was reportedly targeted by a hacker who shared his alleged nude photos online.

Fans acknowledged that DeLuise was a victim in the situation and they quickly came to his defense on Twitter. "Stop being mean to jerry russo he was a father figure to hundreds," one user wrote (via Hollywood Life). "Who leaked Jerry Russo's nudes? Whoever did it F*** YOU!," another penned. Even Selena Gomez was reportedly upset that her former co-star's privacy was violated. An anonymous source made claims about Gomez's reaction while speaking to Hollywood Life. "Selena feels embarrassed for David and she refuses to look at his [alleged] nude pics that leaked online," they alleged. "She loves David and feels horrible that someone would invade his privacy like this. Selena is going through something similar, having recently been hacked herself, so she can totally relate to the scary feeling of being violated."

Christian Bale was accused of assault

In 2008, Christian Bale's mother, Jenny James, and his sister, Sharon Bale alleged he assaulted them in a hotel. Bale was later arrested in connection with the incident after he turned himself in to police. The actor's representatives issued a statement on his behalf following the alleged attack. "Christian Bale attended a London police station, on a voluntary basis, in order to assist with an allegation that had been made against him to the police by his mother and sister," they claimed, per the Independent. "Mr. Bale, who denies the allegation, cooperated throughout, gave his account in full of the events in question, and has left the station without any charge being made against him by the police."

Prosecutors later determined that Bale would not face charges for the incident due to "insufficient evidence," per The Guardian. While there may not have been adequate proof surrounding this alleged assault, Bale's feud with his mother was speculated for years. The mother and son reportedly made amends in 2019.

Bale made headlines for all the wrong reasons again after his angry rant on the set of "Terminator Salvation" was caught on tape. The actor could be heard yelling at the movie's director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, for messing up a scene. He later issued an apology during a radio interview for Los Angeles-based station KROQ. "I was out of order beyond belief." the actor said in part. "I make no excuses for it."

A fan claimed Justin Bieber was her child's father

Justin Bieber was hit with a shocking allegation during the height of his career. In 2011, a fan came forward to claim that he was the father of her child. The accuser, Mariah Yeater, took the star to court and requested that he take a paternity test and move forward with supporting the child. Court documents detailed Yeater's recollection of her and Bieber's alleged encounter, per Daily Mail. She claimed that the singer's bodyguard brought her backstage. It was alleged that Yeater and Bieber later had sex in a bathroom.

A man by the name of Robert Powell claimed to be the real father of Yeater's child. He came forward to allege she was looking for an opportunity to make money. "She just picked him because she thought he was famous and all and thought she could get a lot of money by telling the magazine Justin was the father." Powell said, per RumourFix. "She saw him as an opportunity to make a lot of money." Bieber agreed to move forward with a paternity test, but Yeater ultimately dropped the lawsuit. It seems that the pop star was able to make light of the situation because he later released a song titled "Maria" about Yeater's allegations.

Giuliana Rancic made offensive comments about Zendaya

Former "Fashion Police" co-host Giuliana Rancic might have taken her banter too far when she made controversial comments about Zendaya. Rancic one critiquing one of the "Euphoria" actor's red carpet looks on an episode of the show. Zendaya wore her hair in faux locs, which Giuliana apparently didn't like. "I feel like she smells like patchouli oil ... or maybe weed," Rancic said of the star's looks.

Zendaya later took to Instagram to issue a statement regarding the TV personality's comments. "There is already harsh criticism of African American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair," she penned in part. "My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough."

Rancic responded to Zendaya's statement with an apology she shared to Twitter. "Dear @Zendaya, I'm sorry I offended you and others," she wrote. "I was referring to a bohemian chic look. Had NOTHING to do with race and NEVER would!!!" The TV personality later issued a second apology during an E! News broadcast. Zendaya took to Instagram once again to share that she accepted the star's apology and was willing to move forward.

Jennifer Lopez and Diddy were arrested after a club shooting

It seems that the world has forgotten about the club shooting that led to Jennifer Lopez and Diddy's arrests in 1999. The celebs were dating at the time and decided to enjoy a night out at a club in New York. A fight broke out after Diddy reportedly bumped into another club goers drink. The conflict escalated and shots were eventually fired, some of which Diddy was allegedly responsible for. Three bystanders were wounded as a result of the shooting.

Later that same night, Diddy and Lopez were pulled over for a traffic violation. They were then arrested after a stolen gun was found in the trunk of their car. Lopez's jail stay was brief and Diddy was later acquitted, so it seems that this former couple wasn't severely punished for their alleged crimes.

Still, the eventful night appeared to have a lasting impact because it led Diddy to change his name. "No more Puff Daddy — the first week in June we're gonna have a name change ceremony," the rapper revealed during an interview with MTV News in 2001. "I'm not doing it as serious as Prince [but] I just want something fresh ... I'm rockin' with P. Diddy now — my man Biggie gave me that name." He also shared he planned to take a leave of absence during that time.

Gawker published Hulk Hogan's Sex Tape

Celebrity news blog Gawker made a bold move that likely tarnished Hulk Hogan's reputation. In 2012, the outlet posted an old clip of a sex tape involving Hogan and his friend's wife. As you might imagine, the former wrestler wasn't happy. He filed a lawsuit against Gawker. His lawyers argued that the website's post was an invasion of privacy. Gawker's lawyers claimed that their decision was protected by the Constitution. They also argued that Hogan's status as a celebrity leaves him with little protection. "He has chosen to seek the spotlight," Gawker lawyer Michael Sullivan said (via The New York Times). "He has consistently chosen to put his private life out there."

Hogan received justice in the end and was awarded $115 million in damages. This was quite the victory considering the fact that he only asked for $100 million. Gawker later filed an appeal and reached a $31 million settlement with Hogan, per The New York Times. The pricey legal battle was still expensive enough to cause the site to shut down. They made a brief comeback in July 2021 before announcing in February 2023 they would be shutting down again.