Let’s face it: These days, Americans are keen on remembering presidents’ gaffes just as much as as their accolades. And considering the social media surge of the past decade, our commanders in chief have been put through the wringer like never before.
Here are some primetime examples of U.S. presidential blunders we thought were worth sharing:
George W.’s Sneaker Attack
George W. Bush didn’t know exactly how he would be received by Baghdad locals when he attended a press conference in Iraq in December 2008, but he certainly didn’t expect what eventually came his way: fast-flying footwear. Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist angry with Bush for the U.S.-led Iraq War, launched two shoes at the president, who had just finished making a speech and was preparing to answer reporters’ questions. Bush managed to successfully dodge both of the cleats, which were thrown in succession, and later made light of the incident, stating, “I’m OK. All I can report is it is a size 10.” He went on to play down the event, calling it an example of “free speech in a democracy.” Now that’s stepping in someone else’s shoes.
LBJ’s Stomach Flash
While participating in a news conference at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington D.C., in October 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson suddenly lifted up his shirt to reveal a stomach scar from a recent gall bladder surgery and kidney stone removal. The unprecedented move by the 36th U.S. president spurred several newspaper articles and cartoons. TMI, LBJ. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi.)
When President Barack Obama made a toast to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at London’s Buckingham Palace in May 2011, things didn’t go exactly as planned: Before beginning his toast, the president paused briefly, and the orchestra misinterpreted the break as their cue to begin playing, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (also the melody to “To Her Majesty the Queen”). After asking guests to raise their glasses for a toast, Obama only had a chance to say, “The vitality—,” before the music began. The president continued his speech as the music played, and at the end of his narrative, he lifted his glass toward the Queen and forced a smile. The music was still playing at the time, however, and the confused attendees waited to sip from their glasses until the song ended. (LEWIS WHYLD/AFP/Getty Images.)
President Bill Clinton made headlines in 2008—after nearly a decade out of office—when he was caught on video sleeping at a service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., held at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, New York.
Reagan’s Hot Mic
In August 1984, at the height of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan stood up to the microphone in preparation for a television broadcast, and not realizing that it was on, jokingly said, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.” While Reagan’s comments weren’t initially broadcast live, they were later leaked and broadcast around the world. The mic mishap hurt the president’s image, particularly in Moscow. Above Photo: Reagan speaks during a press conference at the White House in May 1982. (Photo by Gene Forte.)
Bush’s ‘Should’ve-Just-Called-In-Sick’ Moment
While attending a dinner event in Japan on January 8, 1992, President George H.W. Bush became very ill, suffering from a bout of the stomach flu—so ill, in fact, that he fainted and then vomited on Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, the event’s host. The embarrassing incident was widely covered by media outlets, but footage of the president’s mid-heave aired only once on ABC News. It was also parodied on Saturday Night Live, with Dana Carvey playing President Bush. The event even spurred a new Japanese term, “Bushuru,” meaning to throw up in public.
Craving more awkward presidential moments in photos? We get you! Take a look at Biography.com’s Awkward Presidential Moments Photo Gallery.