The Third Annual “Liberal Hack Tournament” Is Here

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One of the most viral events of the year is underway, uninterrupted by the global turmoil, as the journey to seek the greatest “liberal hack” will be determined by the public. 

The “Ruthless” podcast is rolling out Comfortably Smug’s third annual “Liberal Hack Tournament,” an NCAA-style contest pitting members of the media against each other in the ultimate fight to become the supreme hack.  

The bracket, first obtained by Fox News Digital, shows a competition dominated by CNN and MSNBC stars with several surprising newcomers, including from the comedy world. 

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Once again, Twitter users will vote in polls shared by “Ruthless” co-host Comfortably Smug and those with the most votes in a 24-hour period will advance to the next round. Match-ups that result in a tie will compete in a sudden-death run-off. 

“It’s the most highly anticipated tournament of its kind, and we’re confident the pageantry and participation in this year’s installment will top last year’s million-vote spectacle,” a spokesman for “Ruthless” told Fox News Digital. 

A play-in round will commence on Tuesday and the first round of the tournament will be held Thursday. 

The official bracket of the 2022

The official bracket of the 2022 “Liberal Hack Tournament” first obtained by Fox News Digital.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who shattered the glass ceiling as the first woman to win #HackMadness in 2021, returns as the top seed defending champion in the Liberal Activist division of the tournament. CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, who was crowned the first-ever winner of the viral competition in 2020, also returns as the No. 1 seed in the Fake News division after a devastating defeat in the Final Four last year against Rubin. 

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MSNBC contributor Matthew Dowd, recently known for his short-lived campaign to become the Democratic nominee for Texas lieutenant governor, returns as the No. 1 seed in the Establishment division, hoping to have a triumphant run following a stunning first-round defeat last year against CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a No. 16 seed who at the time was still on hiatus following his Zoom masturbation scandal in 2020 was eliminated in the Sweet 16. Toobin returns as a No. 13 seed in the Fake News division hoping to beat off competitors and squeeze out a victory.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the outspoken New York Times Magazine reporter and author of the controversial “1619 Project,” is the top seed in the Way-Too-Online division after reaching the Sweet 16 in the Liberal Activist division last year as a No. 5 seed. 

Washington Post columnist and defending

Washington Post columnist and defending “Liberal Hack Tournament” champion Jennifer Rubin.  (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

CNN dominates this year’s bracket with 18 competitors, 11 of them being in the Fake News division alone. CNN’s Jim Acosta, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and Ana Navarro are all in the tournament, but it’s their fallen colleagues who may steal the spotlight this year. 

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Fired CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who was defeated by Jennifer Rubin in the 2021 championship as the scandals that plagued him and his brother Andrew Cuomo were in their infancy, is hoping for another chance at glory as the No. 6 seed in the Fake News division. And joining him is recently-ousted president Jeff Zucker, making his first-ever debut in the “Liberal Hack Tournament” as a No. 4 seed hoping to use his dramatic exit from CNN as leverage, but things can get sticky in the first round as he goes one-on-one against his former employee, Jeffrey Toobin. 

Former CNN icons Chris Cuomo and Jeff Zucker eye for the top prize in the 2022 viral contest. 

Former CNN icons Chris Cuomo and Jeff Zucker eye for the top prize in the 2022 viral contest. 
(Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images  |  CNN)

MSNBC and NBC News also collectively have a strong presence with 15 competitors, including Joy Reid, Nicolle Wallace, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Stephanie Ruhle, Joe Scarborough and Yamiche Alcindor. 

One of the most-anticipated matchups in the first round is Reid and Alcindor, the No. 8 and 9 seeds respectively in the Way-Too-Online division. Maddow, returning as the No. 4 seed in the Liberal Activist division, had a disappointing performance last year with her second-round elimination and will have an uphill climb as she is still on hiatus from her primetime program through the end of the month. 

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The Washington Post has solid representation with six competitors. Alongside Rubin are fellow columnists Max Boot and Greg Sargent, fact-checker Glenn Kessler, correspondent Dave Weigel and new columnist Taylor Lorenz, competing as the No. 2 seed in the Way-Too-Online division following her disappointing debut last year as a No. 1 seed defeated in the Sweet 16 while working at The New York Times. 

The Times, in contrast, maintained its weak presence with financial columnist Paul Krugman and former media columnist Ben Smith, who recently parted ways with the paper, appearing with Hannah-Jones in the 2022 contest. Smith, a No. 16 seed, will battle Hannah-Jones in the first round. 

New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones returns as a No. 1 seed in #HackMadness.

New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones returns as a No. 1 seed in #HackMadness.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Perhaps the most shocking among this year’s competitors is the expansion of the disgraced anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project. Co-founder Steve Schmidt returns to the tournament in the Establishment division after competing last year among the Liberal Activists and is joined by fellow co-founders Rick Wilson and Reed Galen, both competing for the first time. “Liberal Hack” veteran John Weaver, the Lincoln Project co-founder accused of sexually harassing young men including minors, is sitting out of the contest this year. 

Galen will first go head-to-head with CNN contributor Alyssa Farah in Tuesday’s play-in for the No. 16 seed in the Establishment division. 

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Making their debuts in this year’s tournament are liberal late-night hosts Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel. Colbert is setting expectations fairly high as the No. 2 seed in the Liberal Activist division expecting to knock out NBC News correspondent Ken Delanian, a No. 15 seed, from the competition in the first round. Kimmel is competing in the Fake News division as the No. 11 seed with his first match against Chris Cuomo. 

“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert makes his debut in the “Liberal Hack Tournament.”
( (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images))

Also eyeing for the top “hack” prize for the very first time include “The View” co-host Joy Behar, a No. 11 seed, CBS News correspondent Robert Costa, a No. 12 seed, and “How to Be an Antiracist” author Ibram X Kendi, a No. 3 seed.

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There were also remarkable shutouts from this year’s competition including CNN’s Jake Tapper, NBC’s Chuck Todd and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, all of whom participated in both the 2020 and 2021 tournaments.

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