December surprise: Time picks Donald Trump as its 'Person of the Year'

The title is given annually to a person who has had huge influence on world events 'for better or for worse,' according to the magazine's editors.

Time Magazine/Handout/Reuters
US President-elect Donald Trump poses on the cover of Time Magazine after being named its person of the year, in a picture provided by the publication in New York Wednesday.

Time magazine’s 2016 Person of the Year goes to President-elect Donald Trump, its editors announced on Wednesday.

The magazine cover features a photograph of Mr. Trump in his Trump Tower residence with the headline “Donald Trump: President of the Divided States of America.”

"When have we ever seen a single individual who has so defied expectations, broken the rules, violated norms, beaten not one but two political parties on the way to winning an election that he entered with 100-to-1 odds against him?" Time Editor Nancy Gibbs said on NBC’s “Today” show.

The decision, according to Ms. Gibbs, was a “straightforward” one. The title, conferred annually, goes to “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse,” wrote its former managing editor Walter Isaacson in 1998. Similar to previous winners of the title, Trump had dominated headlines and conversations throughout the year despite drawing polarizing opinions about his character and capabilities.

“It’s a great honor. It means a lot,” Trump said in a phone interview with NBC, although he disagreed with the “Divided States of America” description. “I didn’t divide ‘em. We’re going to put it back together and we’re going to have a country that’s very well-healed.”

The Time cover story on Trump highlights how Trump beat the odds and surprised the world by winning the presidency.

“For nearly 17 months on the campaign trail, Trump did what no American politician had attempted in a generation, with defiant flair. Instead of painting a bright vision for a unified future, he magnified the divisions of the present, inspiring new levels of anger and fear within his country. Whatever you think of the man, this much is undeniable: he uncovered an opportunity others didn’t believe existed, the last, greatest deal for a 21st century salesman,” Michael Scherer wrote.

Trump was also on the running list for Person of the Year in 2015 but lost out to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the fourth woman to ever win the title, who was chosen for her leadership at times of crisis. The magazine had praised her courage then in managing Europe’s debt crises, dealing with the influx of refugees and Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

He wasn’t happy about the decision then. After the announcement, Trump Tweeted:

This year, Trump got his wish, beating out Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who was the second person in consideration for the title. The No. 3 was “The Hackers,” referring to “a new cyber security threat we saw this year of state-sponsored hackers looking to delegitimize an American election,” Gibbs said.

The most recent American president to have been given the title was President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

“In one of the craziest elections in American history, Barack Obama overcame a lack of experience, a funny name, two candidates who are political institutions and the racial divide to become the 44th President of the United States,” the magazine wrote in 2008.

In 2014, the Person of the Year were Ebola fighters, preceded by Pope Francis, the protester in 2011, and Mark Zuckerberg in 2010. Controversial figures such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, have all been given the title in the past.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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