10 Huge Mishaps by Major World Leaders

6 min read
Faux Pas

To err is human, right? And, since our world leaders are humans just like the rest of us, it’s expected that they’ll make a few mistakes now and then. Here are ten faux pas committed by world leaders.

10. George H. W. Bush Vomited on Japan’s Prime Minister

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In the middle of a 12-day trip through Asia, President George H. W. Bush was attending a state banquet when be began feeling nauseous. According to a Newsweek article, the president excused himself to go into the bathroom and vomit. But, instead of calling it a night, he returned to the table. Between the second and third courses, Bush pushed back in his chair and fainted. His body then reeled to the left, and he threw up on Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s pants. The moment passed after about a minute and Bush was back on his feet. It turned out that the president had the flu.

9. Jimmy Carter Kissed Queen Elizabeth

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In May 1977, President Jimmy Carter was attending a dinner for NATO leaders. The dinner was hosted by Queen Elizabeth and was held at Buckingham Palace. Upon his arrival, Carter greeted the queen in a most unusual way. It’s customary to bow or curtsy (if you’re a woman) to the queen. But, instead of bowing, President Carter kissed her–right on the lips! “I took a sharp step backwards – not quite far enough,” she reportedly commented afterwards. We’re sure if it were anyone else they would have taken a step back, too. I mean, who wants a stranger–or even someone they know but don’t have an intimate relationship with, for that matter–kissing them on the lips?!

8. Joe Biden Asked a Wheelchair-Bound Senator to Stand Up

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Vice President Joe Biden, before he became the Vice President, was at a campaign rally in 2008 when he asked Missouri state senator Chuck Graham to stand up and be recognized. The only problem was that Graham was in a wheelchair. In fact, the senator has been confined to a wheelchair ever since he was paralyzed in an accident he was in when he was 16 years old.

After Biden realized his mistake, he tried to save face by making the audience stand up instead. According to Time magazine, he then made his way over to the senator and joked, “You can tell I’m new.”

7. French President Emmanuel Macron Called Australian Prime Minister’s Wife “Delicious”

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Last May, French President Emmanuel Macron caused quite a stir when he referred to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s wife as “delicious.”

The French president and the Australian prime minister were wrapping up a joint news conference in Sydney when Macron turned to the Turnbulls and said, “I want to thank you for your welcome, thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome,” as reported by NBC Washington.

When asked how he felt about the French president’s comment, Turnbull told reporters that he found it quite charming. “Lucy was very flattered,” Turnbull told reporters. “She’s asked me to say that she found the president’s compliment as charming as it was memorable.”

6. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Served Dessert Out of a Shoe to Japan’s Prime Minister

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Okay, first of all, who wants to eat dessert out of a shoe? Seriously. And, if that weren’t bad enough, the fact that shoes are despised in Japanese culture made this faux pas ten times worse. For reasons unknown to man, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to serve Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dessert–chocolates, to be exact–out of a shoe following a dinner they had together at Netanyahu’s home. “This was a stupid and insensitive decision,” a senior Israeli diplomat, who had previously served in Japan, said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “There is nothing more despised in Japanese culture than shoes. Not only do they not enter their houses while wearing shoes, you will not find shoes in their offices either. Even the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament do not wear shoes to work… It is equivalent to serving a Jewish guest chocolates in a dish shaped like a pig,” the diplomat added.

5. Barack Obama Tried to Open the Wrong Door

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After returning from a trip to Latin America in 2011, Barack Obama attempted to open a door to the Oval Office that was locked. Unfortunately for him, the whole thing was caught on camera. He seemed to take it all in stride, however, whistling as he went along. But, that didn’t stop the White House blog from having a little fun at the president’s expense. According to NPR, the blog set the video to the tune of Hail to the Chief before uploading it to YouTube!

4. George W. Bush Added 200 Years to Queen Elizabeth’s Age

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During a welcome ceremony on the White House lawn in honor of Queen Elizabeth, President Bush accidentally said that the Queen helped celebrate the United States’ bicentennial in 1776. What he should have said was that she helped celebrate it in 1976! The Queen took it all in stride and even teased Bush about it at a formal dinner at the British ambassador’s residence in Washington. She opened her speech with a toast to Bush and then said, “I wondered whether I should start this toast by saying, ‘When I was here in 1776…’.” Everyone, including President Bush, burst into laughter.

3. George W. Bush Mispronounced Spanish Prime Minister’s Name

Name Tags
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Travis Wise from Bay Area, California, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

In 2001, President George W. Bush mispronounced the Spanish prime minister’s name in a television interview. During the interview, he referred to Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and “Jose Maria Anzar.” According to The Guardian, he also “employed a mangled grammar, placing the emphasis on the wrong parts of words and confusing gender.”

“I have to practice this very lovely language,” Bush told the interviewer, The Guardian reported. “If I don’t practice I am going to destroy this language.”

As a result, Bush was mocked during the election campaign because he was always known for saying he could speak Spanish yet was ignorant of international affairs when it came to pronouncing Aznar’s name.

2. Jimmy Carter’s Translator Told the Polish People He’d Abandoned the United States

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Steven Seymour was assigned to the Carter mission by the Language Services Division. Apparently, he was supposed to be the best qualified Polish-English interpreter available. Unfortunately, he had a bit of trouble interpreting the president. Carter’s phrase “When I left the United States” was interpreted as “when I abandoned the United States.” On another occasion, a reference to “Pulaski County” came out as “Pulaski Duchy.” And, on yet another occasion, Seymour interpreted Carter’s reference to the Polish people’s desires for the future as “your lusts for the future.” Needless to say, Seymour was told that he would not be interpreting at a presidential press conference that was scheduled for December 30, 1977. He was replaced by Jerzy Krycki, a Polish citizen who worked for the U.S. Embassy.

1. Donald Trump Walked Ahead of Queen Elizabeth

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And, last but certainly not least, our current president has committed quite a few faux pas of his own. But, for now, we’ll just concentrate on one.

During his visit with Queen Elizabeth last July, President Donald Trump briefly walked ahead of the Queen as they walked along the grounds of Windsor Castle. According to BBC, it’s considered rude to walk ahead of the Queen. It’s also considered rude to turn your back to her.

Of course, like with everything else Trump does, folks took to social media to quip about the gaffe. Twitter member David_Dowse1 had this to say:

“I have never been much of a Royalist, until I saw the elderly Queen summoning every atom of her considerable dignity and grace to deal with the moron visitor who was forced upon her. My respect for you, Ma’am is equaled only by my disdain for Trump. Cretin is too mild a word.”


What would you say is the worst faux pas on this list? Do you know of any others worse than these? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks!