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6 'TIME' Person Of The Year Winners Who Prove The Title Isn't Always An Honor

As if President-elect Donald Trump didn't receive enough media coverage this year, TIME has devoted a very special cover for the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States, as 2016 Person of the Year. To be frank, selecting Trump as Person of the Year is a bit lazy and uninspired on TIME's part — but I will give the nearly 100-year-old publication credit where credit is due. TIME's Person of the Year (formerly "Man of the Year" until 1999) isn't necessarily a celebration of that person, nor is it an endorsement, as it noted in its 2007 Person of the Year profile on Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, there a plenty of TIME Person of the Year winners who prove the title isn't always an honor.

In fact, TIME has even said itself that its pick for Person of the Year "is not and never has been an honor." With Donald Trump as 2016's Person of the Year pick, the magazine acknowledged that he would be regarded as a controversial choice by readers around the globe, clarifying that the Person of the Year selection is ultimately "about power and influence, not likability or morality." You can't deny that Trump solidly checks the box for each of those qualities set by TIME. The magazine also doesn't shy away from its own history, either, when in the same profile of Trump, it noted that Adolph Hitler was its Man of the Year in 1938. Along with Hitler, here are five more controversial Person of the Year covers from TIME.

Adolf Hitler, 1938

In 1939, German dictator Adolf Hitler was TIME's Man of the Year. It seems almost hard to believe that the man responsible for the deaths of more than six million people in concentration and death camps throughout Europe during World War II could be selected as TIME's Man of the Year — but it's important to remember the historical geopolitical context of 1939. Hitler and was practically regarded by Germans as a rallying nationalist savior at that time in the wake of World War I, which had left the German economy in ruins.

Joseph Stalin, 1939 & 1942

On the goose-stepping heels of Hitler's cover, TIME chose Joseph Stalin as their Man of the Year in 1939, and again in 1942. As the most influential leader of Russia during World War II, it's not surprising TIME would follow up Hitler with Stalin. They acknowledged Stalin's "reign of terror" and his mass roundups and executions while leader of Russia — clear indicators of the "power and influence" metric used by TIME.

Ayatollah Khomeini, 1979

A decade after the Summer of Love, the world was an incredibly different, darker, and more complicated place. When TIME chose Ayatollah Khomeini as its Man of the Year, it was met with much backlash and outrage, considering that at the time Khomenini was directly responsible for 52 Americans being held hostage in Iran after a raid on the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Kenneth Starr, 1998


In 1998, both President Bill Clinton and Ken Starr were TIME's Men of the Year. This wasn't the first time the magazine had more than one Person of the Year named on their cover, but the pairing was particularly controversial given that Starr's report paved the way for Clinton's impeachment.

Vladimir Putin, 2007

Vladimir Putin was TIME's Person of the Year in 2007. He assumed power as Russia entered the 21st century, largely shaping it into what it is today. He was not without controversy, and at the time of his Person of the Year issue, was on his way out as president of Russia (Putin would be elected as president again four years later). Still, TIME thought it was important to recognize his profound influence as the passionate leader that brought Russia into a new century.

Donald Trump, 2016

That's right: I'm calling out TIME for picking Trump as 2016's Person of the Year — as are plenty of other people. But not because of all of the awful things that came out of Trump's mouth during his entire campaign — but because it's just lazy journalism. Picking Trump was definitely a "phone it in" choice because he was easy. It's true he dominated the media landscape, but as TIME said in 2007, the Person of the Year "is not a popularity contest." Other better choices could have been Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama, or even Béyonce — they each had their own substantial power and influence in 2016, too. I'd even argue that TIME should have gone with a genre cover for the Black Lives Matter movement.

It'll be interesting to see, after Trump's entrée into the White House, just who will make the cover this time next year.