'Liberal Hack' Sweet 16: Jennifer Rubin slays Keith Olbermann, Joy Behar pummels Colbert among epic clashes

Brian Stelter, Joy Reid also advance to Elite Eight while Chris Cuomo was sent back to his basement

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It was a clash of the titans in the Sweet 16 of the third annual "Liberal Hack Tournament."

The NCAA-style contest presented by the "Ruthless" podcast is narrowing down the field of truly talented and driven "hack" hopefuls. Every battle is as fierce as the next. 

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CNN began the tournament with a whopping 18 competitors, but only one is still standing and advancing to the Elite Eight.

And it's none other than Brian Stelter

Brian Stelter is keeping CNN proud as its sole competitor still competing for "Hack" glory. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN)

Brian Stelter is keeping CNN proud as its sole competitor still competing for "Hack" glory. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN) (Kevin Mazur)

Stelter, the No.1 seed and the first-ever winner of the "Liberal Hack Tournament" in 2020, has been a tour de force in this year's contest, never falling below 80% of the Twitter vote. He decimated his own colleague Don Lemon earning 81.2% of the vote. 

Nearly no one in the media has had a year quite like Stelter. As CNN's de facto spokesperson, he was sent out to defend the network during the evolving Chris Cuomo saga, which included a humiliating appearance on "The Late Show" where he was grilled about CNN's ethics. And things only got more awkward when his boss Jeff Zucker was ousted after failing to disclose a consensual relationship with a deputy executive and aiding Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the early months of the pandemic. Critics were left with many questions, among them, "What did Stelter know and when did he know it?" 

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Speaking of the Cuomos, Stelter's ex-colleague Chris Cuomo was eliminated by The Bulwark editor-at-large Bill Kristol in a 53-47 vote, a devastating blow for the former CNN anchor, who reached the 2021 championship only to be defeated by Jennifer Rubin. Despite all the scandals that have made Cuomo a heavy favorite, he ultimately could not overtake Kristol's loyal fanbase. 

Kristol, a No. 2 seed, will take on Stelter in the Fake News division championship. While the famed neoconservative has had an impressive run this year, it will be difficult for him to leap over a former heavyweight champion like Stelter into the Final Four. 

The Bulwark editor-at-large Bill Kristol is hoping to defeat CNN's Brian Stelter and clinch a spot in the Final Four. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Bulwark editor-at-large Bill Kristol is hoping to defeat CNN's Brian Stelter and clinch a spot in the Final Four. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The most explosive matchups in the Sweet 16 took place in the Liberal Activists division. Despite having newcomer momentum in the earlier rounds, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was simply no match for Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, the defending champion earning nearly 74% support. 

Rubin, whose flip-flops and non-stop cheerleading for President Biden has given her "Kween" status on Twitter, remains a force to be reckoned with. 

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Meanwhile, "The View" co-host Joy Behar has been shattering expectations in her tournament debut. As a No. 11 seed, she pulled the rug from underneath "Late Show" host and No. 2 seed Stephen Colbert, another "Hack" newcomer, by a 27-point margin.  

Have the popcorn ready for an epic Rubin-Behar showdown in the Liberal Activists division championship. 

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

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

Heading into the Way-Too-Online division championship are MSNBC host Joy Reid and "How to Be an Antiracist" author Ibram X. Kendi.

After overcoming a major nail-biter victory against the No. 1 seed, "1619 Project" mastermind Nikole Hannah-Jones, Reid, a No. 8 seed easily bested liberal columnist Molly Jong-Fast with 81% of the vote. There has been criticism that some competitors were under-seeded, Joy Reid among them despite having been an Elite Eight veteran. 

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Washington Post columnist Taylor Lorenz continues to disappoint in this contest given all the fanfare she receives from both Twitter Blue Checks and Twitter trolls. Lorenz's expertise of underage Tik Tok users could not compete with the antiracism juggernaut that is Ibram X. Kendi, who got nearly 60% support. 

Expect fireworks from the upcoming brawl between Reid, who declares racism among every level of Republican politics, and Kendi, who declares racism among every cultural institution. 

"Liberal Hack" newcomer Ibram X. Kendi will be entering a cage match against MSNBC star Joy Reid. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

"Liberal Hack" newcomer Ibram X. Kendi will be entering a cage match against MSNBC star Joy Reid. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) (Michael Loccisano)

MSNBC contributor Matthew Dowd continues his dominance in the Establishment division, defeating CNN contributor Jonah Goldberg with 55% of the vote. 

Dowd is set to compete with Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson, who sent CNN contributor Ana Navarro packing.

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Wilson has had a solid performance in this year's tournament, but his supreme grifting will do little to aid him in his clash with a powerhouse like Dowd.  

Nearly 300,000 votes have been cast so far in this year's tournament.