8 Most Embarrassing Presidential Gaffes

Gaffes, for any president, seem to be inevitable. Below is a list of the eight most regrettable utterances from the highest office.

Rcihard Nixon (Photo by Ollie Atkins, National Archives)

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Today, everything an American president says is dissected and analyzed. For anyone under such scrutiny, gaffes are inevitable, and every thoughtless, off-hand comment or tasteless remark is captured and broadcast even before the president realizes what he just said. But all such gaffes are not equally horrid.

Here is a list of the eight most regrettable utterances from the highest office.


1. No Crooks Here

Asked in an interview if there were any situation in which the president, in the best interest of America, could commit an illegal act, Richard Nixon replied, “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” In hindsight, he was a little off on that one.


2. What Cold War?

Debating Jimmy Carter in 1976, Gerald Ford declared, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Asked if he truly meant that the nations held behind the USSR’s Iron Curtain weren’t dominated by Soviets, he repeated himself, asserting that Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia were free of Soviet interference. It destroyed all of Ford’s credibility in foreign affairs.


3. Unsound Check

Prior to a 1984 radio broadcast, Ronald Reagan was asked to speak into the microphone for a sound check. Joking, he said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” A recording of his statement was leaked, and Soviet forces were briefly put on alert.


4. Language Tango 

In 1998 testimony before a grand jury, Bill Clinton was questioned about his improper relationship with White House aide Monica Lewinsky. In defending as truthful his statement that “there’s nothing going on between us,” he responded, “It depends on what the meaning of the word is is. If the — if he — if is means ‘is and never has been,’ that is not — that is one thing. If it means ‘there is none,’ that was a completely true statement. … Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.” His attempt at hair-splitting did not prevent his later impeachment by the House of Representatives.


5. Whose Finger Is on the Button?

Harry Truman, who liked to express himself in terse, direct statements, was asked whether the U.S. would consider using atomic weapons against the Chinese in Korea. He replied, “The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of weapons, as he always has.” Unfortunately, the commander was the impulsive, headstrong General Douglas MacArthur. Many Americans feared the General would start the next world war through the use of atomic bombs. The administration quickly issued a correction, but it didn’t erase the worries.


6. Bad Lip Reading

At the 1988 Republican Convention, candidate George H.W. Bush pledged to resist Congressional pressure to raise taxes. “They’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again, and I’ll say, to them, Read my lips: no new taxes.” Two years later, those lips had to eat those words as Bush raised taxes, helping to drop his approval rating from 79% to 56%.


7. You’re on Candid Camera

A reporter once asked Dwight Eisenhower what important decisions his vice president, Richard Nixon, had helped him make. Eisenhower, with uncharacteristic candor, replied, “If you give me a week I might think of one.” It was such a revealing remark that the Democrats replayed it in campaign ads against Nixon in 1960.


8. Gutter Ball

On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Barack Obama was asked about a recent bowling event. “I bowled a 129,” he replied. Leno replied sarcastically, “That’s very good, Mr. President.” And the president added, “It’s like the Special Olympics or something.” Even before the taped show could be aired, the White House recognized the insult to participants in the Special Olympics, and campaign of apologies began.

Featured image: Rcihard Nixon (Photo by Ollie Atkins, National Archives)

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  1. Gary, you are well intentioned but hopeless. Everything I’ve said has been documented often on live TV. I guess it’s a case of who am I going to believe, you or my lying eyes. Only time will tell if Trump is sincere or just one bloated ego who can’t get enough of himself. There is no hatred in me for Trump. Only a deep rooted concern for our country. You believe what you want and I will believe what I see and hear. Our democracy is based on a free press and to believe that every reporter and every newspaper are lying is nuts. I can point out many, many instances in which Trump and his staff have been caught in outright lies but you will only deny it. Good luck brother and God bless you.

  2. It’s sad when folks believe reality is defined by name-calling. Defining the President as lying, immoral racist, bashing African Americans, women, foreigners, etc, without providing one shred of evidence is hysterical arm-waving. Pick ONE, say African Americans, and show how President Trump has bashed them. How many times does the President have to say he does not admire Putin for it to sink in? Show the contrary evidence. The FBI found no Putin collusion. One truth… Trump does bash some in the press. Certainly this “free press” has the RIGHT to lie and report made-up fake hate news. But with any right comes responsibility. A truly free press is free to find and report truth, but when their masters don’t like what they see, that same free press abrogates their responsibility and makes up stuff. This IS what N. Korea does! The reports that certain news agencies were barred from a press corp briefing are completely false. It wasn’t a press briefing but a gaggle, and the limited pool of attending news organizations was always designed to be 13 members, reporting out to about 3000 news organizations. CBS and NBC were there. Spicer invited a few extra, and those who were not included in the “extra” invites claimed they were barred. Again, FAKE news. Here’s the real issue… People like Jeanne live in a fearful America, and are happy to maintain it using any lie, violent protest or name-calling tactic they can think of. The rest of America support what President Trump is working for, encourages the actions he takes, sees past his human gaffes, and appreciates his non-politician leadership style. His success defines the American dream. Heck, he is not even accepting the salary he’s entitled to. I guess that makes him a volunteer worker, helping to Make America Great Again. I’m with him!

  3. Are we to learn that America’s future is totally at the mercy (which Trump is devoid of) of an unknowing, unfeeling despot that dresses & parades as our president can accomplish & deliver on his blatant LIES???
    Just how long are we expected to tolerate an insulting hoax that promises to imitate that of Richard M Nixon!If this is Trump’s idea of “Making America Great” I guess I just wasted my literary education. How long does it take for Impeachment???

  4. “alternate facts” ???? Who’s lying now? Trump is a lying, immoral racist who has bought the minds of people who truly believe he will deliver on his empty promises. Surely we all want what is best for our beloved country; for more jobs and less crime. But so far I have only heard him bashing all kinds of groups – women, foreigners, the media, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, ad infinitum. And how many times must we listen to his self aggrandizement? Count how many times he says I in his speeches. This has nothing to do with liking or hating this man. It has everything to do with an egotist who admires a despot like Putin. And that is frightening.
    Our press is not perfect but it is free unlike countries where the news is suppressed and the people only hear what their dictator allows them to hear., N. Korea for example. Now certain news agencies are being barred from the press corps briefing at the White House. Only those like Breibart
    ,those who say nice things about Trump, will be telling us what he wants s to hear. Step 1 folks.
    People like Gary have bought into the lies. Sad.

  5. As I tell my kids… if you treat people like dirt, you will be treated like dirt. So it is with the left-leaning media. They treat President Trump like dirt, yet can’t understand why he treats them with contempt. For all you who think Trump intentionally lies, I propose that what you hear as lies is perpetuated by that same dirty press. The President is doing exactly what he said he would do. His intent is clear. The “facts” that many use to form their opinions, are in fact, fake news. Fake and Hate. Stories are intentionally spun by omitting quoted words and using alternate definitions of spoken words. What gets written does not represent what was spoken. That makes many in media LIARS. So Jeanne, as you say, Wake up people! Don’t so easily become the “Useful Idiots” for those with the socialist/globalist agenda. President Trump is human and will make verbal mistakes, but his actions are what counts. He is a man of action, and millions agree with him. Buy American, and Hire American, and help make America Great Again!

  6. He tells so many lies that it’s like a diversion from what we really need to listen to. He is so scary and so many references to Hitler from his following that I,for one am alarmed!!!

  7. Probably over a year ago, I wrote AT LEAST once asking you to either please reprint a column I used to love when I was a farm boy It was called “Heinrich Schnibbel’s Worterbuch (German for “dictionary.”)

    I never heard back. Was “Schnibbel” just too politically incorrect? Do you read your mail?

    I’m now seventy-seven. I actually minored in German at university level e because of Heinrich Schnibbel and the Kaatzenjammer Kids (old cartoon).

    Auld Lang Syne

    Ron Miller

  8. Trump is the epitome of the word gaffe every time he opens his mouth. The difference is he lies intentionally. He has been caught in so many lies, you cannot believe anything he says. Now he is trying to discredit the media with his lies. Take away the free press, folks, and we Will have a dictatorship. It’s how Hitler got started as well as every other “bad guy” in history. Wake up people!


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