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Comey, Spicey, Fake News And Biden: The Most Popular Politics Stories Of 2017

Melissa McCarthy's Saturday Night Live impression of White House press secretary Sean Spicer was one of the most viral moments of 2017.
Will Heath
Melissa McCarthy's Saturday Night Live impression of White House press secretary Sean Spicer was one of the most viral moments of 2017.

Despite President Trump dominating the Top 10 political stories on in 2017, he didn't end up atop the perch.

Topping this list is a man who made headlines for not running for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, who teared up as he received the Medal of Freedom in January.

The year's biggest through lines are well represented: Former FBI Director James Comey, political comedy, and of course, Trump's Twitter feed.

Here are the most-viewed politics stories of the year:

1. Biden receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

After extolling the job Biden did as vice president, calling him a "lion of American history," outgoing President Barack Obama unexpectedly awarded Biden the nation's highest civilian honor, with distinction, in January. The three men who received such an honor most recently before Biden? President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Gen. Colin Powell.

This photo says it all.

Then-President Obama presents Vice President Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 12.
Susan Walsh / AP
Then-President Obama presents Vice President Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 12.

2. The untold side of Fox News' baseless Seth Rich story

In August, NPR's David Folkenflik got an exclusive look at a lawsuit filed against Fox News. The suit alleged that "the Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House" to concoct a story about the death of Seth Rich, a young Democratic National Committee aide.

The Rich story shed light on alleged efforts to deflect attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to Russia.

3. Inauguration Day 2017: live blog

The NPR Politics team rounded up the events of Jan. 20, 2017 — from newly minted President Trump saying he was "very honored" that Hillary Clinton would attend his inauguration, to the pope wishing the new president "spiritual prosperity."

Trump sent his first tweet as president: "January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again."

And protesters stormed the streets of Washington, D.C., foreshadowing the massive Women's March scheduled for the following day.

4. Trump's inaugural address, annotated

"And the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential," said Trump, in his inauguration speech from the U.S. Capitol. "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

The line was maybe the most memorable from the speech, describing a country in distress — one that he could help make "great again."

"He paints a bleak picture of America as a country plagued by a devastated manufacturing sector, crime and troubled schools," wrote NPR's Sarah McCammon. "In reality, the nation has seen an overall downward trend in violent crime in recent decades, although some cities have experienced spikes in crime over the past couple of years."

5. How the Republican tax overhaul would affect you

As usual, the best way to understand policy is a very large chart. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben and Scott Horsley put this one together to reflect early versions of tax bills passed by the House and Senate. Kurtzleben published a new one in mid-December, to reflect the final version signed into law by President Trump.

A corporate tax rate cut, from 35 to 21 percent, and a limit on the mortgage interest deduction. Almost all Americans will feel some sort of change, but the top percentage of earners stand to benefit the most.

6. House votes to overturn Obama rule restricting gun sales to some people with mental illness

The action was the latest in a series of moves by the newly installed GOP-controlled Congress to undo several of former President Barack Obama's regulations on issues such as gun control and the environment.

President Trump signed the measure into law just a few weeks later.

The Obama administration policy would have required the Social Security Administration to report the records of some mentally ill beneficiaries to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but it was opposed by the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union.

"This is a slap in the face for those in the disabled community because it paints all those who suffer from mental disorders with the same broad brush," said Republican House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, as reported by USA Today. "It assumes that simply because an individual suffers from a mental condition, that individual is unfit to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights."

7. Trump's graphic insult of cable host Mika Brzezinski

Seemingly in response to a particularly scathing segment on MSNBC's Morning Joe, President Trump unleashed one of the most vitriolic insults of his presidency on June 29, aimed at host Mika Brzezinski.

The president said Brzezinski was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" while at his Palm Beach, Fla., resort for New Year's Eve. He also called her "low I.Q. Crazy Mika."

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle denounced the comments.

"Please just stop," said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. "This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office."

8. Melissa McCarthy's "Spicey" and Alec Baldwin's Trump return to "SNL"

Politics dominated late night TV this year, and no moment (apologies to Jimmy Kimmel's health care monologue) captivated NPR audiences more than McCarthy's Barbie-wielding, lectern-riding, gum-devouring Sean Spicer lampoon on Saturday Night Live.

"First of all, I'd just like to announce that I'm calm now and I will remain calm," McCarthy says, in the show's cold open. "This is a new Spicey!"

This particular Feb. 11 episode saw Alec Baldwin return to hosting duties for a record 17th time as well, where he reprised his Trump impression.

9. Trump administration clashes with the media over inauguration crowd size

The third inauguration story on's Top 10 is about President Trump's administration calling out what they saw as "deliberately false reporting" on the size of the crowd at Trump's inauguration.

"Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," then-press secretary Sean Spicer said. "That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe."

PolitiFact rated the claim "Pants on Fire," the fact-checking site's most egregious falsehood rating.

Spicer also correctly said the National Park Service does not do crowd estimates anymore, so there wasn't an official estimate, but he went on to incorrectly talk about the number of people who used D.C. public transportation.

From NPR's Jessica Taylor:

"In 2009, 317,000 people had, in fact, used the Metro by 11 a.m., according to WMATA, as Spicer cited. But the White House press secretary then claimed that 420,000 people had used the Metro on Friday; by 11 a.m. only 193,000 people had ridden Metro. For the whole day on Friday, 570,000 people used the system, but in 2013 there were 782,000 riders and 1.1 million riders in 2009 — both much larger than Trump's inauguration."

10. Comey fesses up to owning anonymous Twitter account

Former FBI Director James Comey has taken a political beating from politicians on both sides of the aisle the past two years, for his handling of separate investigations into Hillary Clinton's email server and Russian election interference. He was fired by President Trump in May, amid the FBI's mounting investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Comey hasn't been involved in very many light-hearted stories recently, but this one from NPR's Carrie Johnson is the exception.

In October, Comey fessed up to owning a Twitter account under the name "Reinhold Niebuhr."

A reporter for Gizmodo traced the Twitter account to Comey, after doing what she described as "four hours of sleuthing." The account took the name of a well-known theologian about whom Comey wrote an undergraduate thesis at the College of William and Mary.

Revealing himself as the account owner, Comey tweeted a picture of himself alone along the roadside in Iowa, with the caption: "On the road home. Gotta get back to writing."

He closed with a message we can all take with us into 2018:

"Will try to tweet in useful ways."

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Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.