2017 was a huge year in news: The United States got a new president. North Korea made major advances in its nuclear program. Women around the world toppled their sexual abusers with the #MeToo movement. And everyone is suddenly talking about bitcoin again.
It was also a bizarre time ― a lot of weird stuff went down in the U.S. and beyond. Here are six of the strangest news stories from the past year.
Comey In The Curtains
*sigh* Where to begin with this one?
James Comey was the director of the FBI until May, when President Donald Trump fired him in a stunning and highly controversial move. Under Comey, the bureau had launched an investigation into possible collusion between the Kremlin and Trump’s campaign. Comey later testified that the president pressured him not to investigate certain members of his team, which Trump denies.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out they didn’t have the greatest relationship during their few months together.
According to a later New York Times interview with Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Comey’s and the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, the FBI director went to notable lengths to avoid interactions with his boss. Comey, who is 6 feet 8 inches tall, reportedly told Wittes that in January 2017 he attempted to blend into the curtains at a White House gathering so that Trump wouldn’t notice him. Apparently his dark blue suit matched the fabric.
“He thought he had gotten through and not been noticed or singled out and that he was going to get away without an individual interaction,” Wittes told the Times.
But Trump not only spotted him; the president gave him a pat on the back.
‘La La Land’ Wins (Then Loses) The Oscar
In an utterly astonishing gaffe in February, the Academy Award for best picture was given to “La La Land” ― and then swiftly plucked away and handed to “Moonlight.”
It was, without a doubt, the most awkward moment in Oscar history.
“I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake,” Jordan Horowitz, producer of “La La Land,” exclaimed partway into his acceptance speech. “‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”
Actor Warren Beatty, who had made the mistaken announcement moments earlier, said he “wasn’t trying to be funny.”
“I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, La La Land,’” he later explained. Apparently he was given the wrong envelope.
Spicer Defends Hitler As Less Evil
Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer infamously said in April, during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Spicer, who lasted six months on the job before he was replaced in July, had been discussing a recent sarin gas attack by Syrian regime forces.
He swiftly attempted to clarify his erroneous comment about the Nazi mass murderer: Hitler “was not using gas on his own people in the same way that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is doing.” Spicer added that Hitler “brought them into the Holocaust centers,” apparently referring to the gas chambers.
The press secretary later apologized for his “mistake” and acknowledged that Nazis did, in fact, gas millions of Jews and others to death during the Holocaust, but calls for his immediate resignation echoed across the country.
The Trump White House also came under fire last January for failing to mention Jewish people or anti-Semitism in its statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
That Rogue Helicopter Attack In Venezuela
In a scenario that sounds more like an action film than reality, actor Oscar Perez commandeered a helicopter in Venezuela and attacked the Supreme Court in Caracas. (Yes, really.)
The extraordinary aerial assault, which occurred in June, drastically escalated tensions in the crisis-torn country. Perez, also a police officer, reportedly dropped grenades and fired gunshots from the stolen aircraft.
“On this day, we are carrying out a deployment by air and land with the sole purpose to return the democratic power to the people and to ensure the laws to establish constitutional order,” Perez said in a video posted online before the incident.
But several curious circumstances, including the complete lack of injuries and Perez’s clean getaway, stirred suspicion that the attack was a setup by President Nicolás Maduro’s regime, orchestrated to justify its continued crackdown on dissent. Explosive anti-government protests rocked the country for months in 2017.
Mysterious Suspected Sonic Attacks In Cuba
A mysterious string of possible sonic attacks on foreign diplomats in Cuba has led to dozens of unexplained ailments over the course of months.
At least 21 U.S. staff and family members in Cuba have experienced unusual symptoms including hearing loss, mild traumatic brain injury, aphasia and other cognitive issues. Canadian diplomats have also been affected, reporting headaches and nosebleeds.
U.S. officials are still puzzled by the situation. They haven’t released an explanation for the odd afflictions, nor have they identified any assailants. Cuban government officials have denied responsibility.
The U.S. State Department announced in late September that it was withdrawing more than half of its embassy staff from Havana in response to the alleged attacks. In October, it expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from that nation’s Washington embassy. The expulsions were not meant to imply that Cuba was behind the assaults, the department said, but merely to force its embassy to operate on the same emergency status as the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
And last but certainly not least ...
War Criminal Swallows Deadly Poison In Court
Former Bosnian Croat commander Slobodan Praljak appeared to deliberately kill himself in a courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands.
Praljak, 72, had previously been sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s. Judges rejected his appeal in November, prompting him to stand up and drink a small vial of cyanide on camera.
“With disdain, I reject this verdict,” he said before consuming the cyanide. “What I drank was poison,” he informed the astonished judges. Praljak later died in a hospital.
You can’t make this stuff up. 2018 has some seriously strange shoes to fill.
Doha Madani contributed to this report.