(Providence, Rhode Island) -- President Obama may have lost a measure of respect this week, when he fumbled the spelling of a popular song. It happens! Most Presidents, Vice Presidents or aspirants to the top two jobs – from both parties - put their foot in their mouth (or worse) sooner or later. And, in a 24/7 media world, the results can be brutal. I did another column on famed political gaffes a few months ago with, and it was well received. So, here’s a little bit more history:
“Dis-RSPECT” – Thursday night President Obama was hosting a White House tribute to famous female African American singers, including Aretha Franklin. “When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her,” Obama said, as the crowd chuckled nervously, “She had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans and women and anyone else who felt marginalized because of what they looked like, who they loved. They wanted some respect,” Mr. Obama added. So, her hit song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!” hit a misspelled sour note at the White House.
“You say, ‘Potato,’ I say, ‘Potatoe!” – The Obama gaffe brought back a flood of memories and laughs, about the day in 1992 when Vice President Dan Quayle had a famous photo op at a school in New Jersey. As a student wrote the word “potato” on a black board, Quayle chimed in, "Add one little bit on the end... Think of 'potato', how's it spelled? You're right phonetically, but what else...? There ya' go... all right!" Quayle said as the student added the misbegotten “e” at the end. Poor Quayle never lived it down (photo above). As much as he was beaten up, if you do pluralized potato - it is potatoes - with the “e” added. But, not in the singular
“Sushi or “Sushie?” – President George H.W. Bush was never grilled for his spelling of sushi in 1992, and for all we know he would have spelled it correctly. His bigger issue was keeping it down! On January 8 at a dinner in Japan with the Prime Minister, Mr. Bush became ill and vomited in his host’s lap. I must say, of all the Presidents I’ve covered, “Bush I” was the most good-natured when things did not go well. So, after vomiting, passing out, and being relieved of his suit jacket, the leader of the free world got up, smiled, and even gave thumbs up wave. Now that’s grace under pressure!
“Like Father; (Not) Like Son” – Presidents Bush I and Bush II were different in so many ways. They were fun to cover, because you never knew what twisted English language might come out. Hey they were quotable, which is what the press likes. To wit, in August 2004 at a speech in Washington, DC, Bush II came forth with this gem when talking about terrorists: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
“Bombs Away!” – There is an old saying in Washington, DC that, “All mics are ‘hot!’” That means that anytime a politician sees a microphone, he or she should assume it is on, and should be careful what they say. In 1984, while doing a microphone check for his weekly radio address, President Reagan 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.” Reagan - once a professional broadcaster – was just joking, but should have known better. The quote – which was not broadcast live – was nonetheless leaked causing him much embarrassment.
“Bombs Away II” – In 2008 Rev. Jesse Jackson was talking to a fellow guest before a live interview about what he perceived to be Senator Barack Obama’s condescending speeches at Black churches. Jackson said he would like to “cut [Obama’s] nuts off.” Just a timely reminder, that when a microphone is clipped to your lapel, it is ‘hot’ and is being recorded somewhere, even if it isn’t being broadcast live. Jackson had to call Obama to apologize.
“Thanks a Lot, Mom!” – At a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, then Senator Hillary Clinton decried what she perceived to be a lack of a work ethic amongst younger Americans. "We have a lot of kids who don't know what work means. They think work is a four-letter word," said Senator Clinton. He daughter Chelsea, who is part of that generation, even called her mom to complain about the remarks. "She called and she said, 'Mom, I do work hard and my friends work hard,"' Sen. Clinton said.
“I’m No Angel!” –You can make fun of the politicians all you want, but we broadcasters have plenty of our own on-air gaffes. In 1995, during the Bosnian War, I was doing a live report from Washington, DC to our affiliate WBS-TV in Atlanta. I said something like, “The Bosnians are attacking suburbia” instead of saying, “The Bosnians are attacking Serbia!” Afterwards I had this horrifying mental image of people in Peachtree City and DeKalb, Georgia piling into their station wagons and causing gridlock on I-75, not unlike the panic from the “War of the Worlds” broadcast of the 1930s. Nothing bad happened, but my slip up is funny to this day!
How about you? Do you have a favorite “Presidential Moment!” that makes you laugh? Share your thoughts by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
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Photo courtesy: ABC News.com