Everybody is susceptible to making mistakes, it doesn’t matter if you’re a television presenter, an amateur skateboarder, or Rob Ford. Humans make mistakes, and we make them a lot. But that’s okay, because as Bram Stoker once said, “we learn from failure, not success.”
Now most of us don’t have to fear too much when we make mistakes as, depending on the severity, we often don’t attract too much attention to ourselves. However, if you’re a respected public figure, one slip up could potentially end your career. Of course, this isn’t always the case; Kanye West shocked the world in 2009 when he interrupted Taylor Swift at the WMA awards but in 2015 he’s doing just fine. The point is that popular and/or respected public figures have to exercise a lot of caution when they speak, as every word will be scrutinized and even the smallest of mistakes will be highlighted.
In this article we will identify 10 times when respected public figures shocked the world with their remarks.
10. Barbara Bush on the Iraq War
On March 18th 2003, Barbara Bush, the wife of George H.W. Bush and mother of George W. Bush, appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the consequences of a U.S. war with Iraq – which began two days later. When asked about how much television she’d been watching, the former first lady replied “none… Why should we hear about body bags and deaths…? it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”
These comments – shocking enough as they were – couldn’t have come at a worse time, as she made them just as the Bush administration was making the decision to ban news coverage of dead soldiers’ homecomings at all military bases. That aside, it’s a shame the former first lady’s beautiful mind couldn’t take the time to hear about body bags and deaths – especially considering both her husband and son are largely responsible for those body bags and deaths.
9. Rick Perry on Homosexuality
During a speech in June 2014, Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was asked whether he considered homosexuality a disorder. Perry responded, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that – and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”
Now, if Perry does indeed have a genetic predisposition that makes him more susceptible to alcoholism, there’s a chance he may have been drunk when he made those remarks. But in all seriousness, what’s more shocking about his comments is that they’re worse then the comments he made during the 2012 Republican presidential debates, in which he failed to list three government agencies and succeeded in dropping out of the election race with the emphatic word: “oops.”
8. Prince Phillip on China
Prince Phillip is notorious for his one liners. Sometimes they’re made in good taste and received well, and others not so much. In particular, during a 1986 visit to China, the Duke of Edinburgh told a group of British students that they’d become “slitty-eyed” if they were to continue staying in the country any longer.
Now, it could be the case that Phillip simply missed his student days and let his mouth run off like his age, but nonetheless it’s still easy to see how these comments could be seen as offensive and inflammatory.
7. Sepp Blatter on Women’s Football
Sepp Blatter made headline news last month after he announced he was stepping down as FIFA president following the indictment of colleagues and fellow officials for bribery and money laundering. However, this was certainly not the first time Blatter had made headlines: In January 2014, he suggested that to increase the popularity of women’s football, Fifa should “let the women play in more feminine clothes… They could, for example, have tighter shorts.”
Following these incendiary comments, you’d think Blatter would take more time and consideration with his words. But this was not to be the case, as less than a year later in an interview with the BBC, Blatter proclaimed that he considered himself “as the godfather of women’s football in Fifa.” Well, after the new Fifa president is sworn in next year, Blatter – to the joy of many – can consider himself jobless.
6. Donald Trump on African Americans
Donald Trump isn’t just known for his hotels and television shows, he’s also known for making controversial remarks and his cat – at least that’s what I think is on top of his head? Anyway, following his recent announcement that he’s once again running for president, Trump has already been taken to task by the media for remarks concerning illegal immigrants and African Americans. Particularly, in an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, Trump stated this: “If you’re an African American youth right now you’re in worst shape then you practically ever were in the history of this country.”
Sure, running for president could be a stressful time, but proclaiming that young African Americans are worse off now than they ever were is clear proof of ignorance. Anyone with a high school education should know about the United States’ dark history of slavery – especially an individual seeking public office. You can view Trump’s full interview with O’Reilly here:
5. Henry Kissinger on the US Military
Henry Kissinger has enjoyed a tremendously successful career: he’s been a National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his efforts in negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam. In summary, Kissinger’s political career centered around foreign policy – and it’s that point that makes the following quote shocking.
During an argument with General Alexander Haig, the former Chief of Staff under President Nixon, Kissinger reportedly stated that “Military men are just dumb stupid animals, to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Now these words are awful enough as they are, but the fact they were said by a person who had significant influence over the United States military and foreign policy makes them even worse.
4. Theodore Roosevelt on the US Government
Most of the quotes so far have been shocking on the basis that they could easily cause offense, however this quote from Theodore Roosevelt is shocking because it challenges our perception of what is real. During his speech at the Progressive Covenant With The People in August 1912, Roosevelt stated that “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”
This quote is largely overlooked by historians and political scientists, but it certainly does touch on an important reality: governments the world over aren’t just swayed by the demands of the people, they’re also swayed by the special interests of big corporations, the military, and the politicians that prioritize power and profit over allegiance to their citizens.
3. Stephen Harper on Canadian History
If you were to list all the controversial things Stephen Harper’s said and done, you’d be writing an article for TheRichest. In 2009 at a press conference in Pittsburgh, Stephen Harper, current Canadian prime minister, raised more than a few eyebrows when he declared that Canada has “no history of colonialism.”
This is a shocking statement from Harper, as anyone with a scintilla of knowledge about North American history knows that Canada was born out of British Colonialism. It’s likely that what Harper actually meant was that Canada itself hadn’t pursued colonial policies. However, even if that is what he meant, Canada did pursue colonial policies in the past: the Indian Act, the establishment of Indian Residential Schools, the criminalization of First Nations cultural practices and languages, and the initial denial of Aboriginal rights. Overall, no matter how Harper’s words were interpreted or spun, it’s clear that denying Canada’s colonial past was an idiotic decision.
2. Benjamin Netanyahu on the Palestinian State
Another public figure who isn’t shy of controversy is Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel. During the 2015 national Israeli election, Netanyahu attempted to attract last minute support by declaring just hours before the polls opened that there would be “no Palestinian state” if he was re-elected as prime minister.
Given the on-going conflict between Israel and Palestine, it’s unsurprising that his comments caused a lot of offence and were criticized by the global community. Nonetheless, Netanyahu was still re-elected as Prime Minister and he later retracted his incendiary remark by stating he still supported a two-state solution with Palestine.
1. Barack Obama on Training ISIL
Barack Obama could go down as one of the most charismatic presidents of all time. The way he’s able to move and inspire a nation, especially during a time of recession and global unrest, is nothing short of amazing. However, it’s impossible for a president to serve two terms without making the odd gaffe.
On July 6, 2015, during a meeting with reporters at the Pentagon, Obama was detailing his administration’s plan to speed up the training of local forces in Iraq to combat ISIL. However, during his speech, Obama said “we’re speeding up training of ISIL forces, including volunteers from Sunni Tribes in Anbar Province.” Following his speech an online debate sparked, with some arguing this was proof that the US really is training ISIS and others arguing it was just an honest slip up. You can watch the clip of Obama’s speech here: