The Most Embarrassing Blunders In Presidential History

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Everyone can make a mistake, but not everyone is being recorded and photographed when they do it. These are some of the funniest mistakes that presidents have made in our wonderful history.

President Jimmy Carter wants to do what with Poland?!

In 1977, then-President Jimmy Carter visited Poland for his first trip abroad as leader of the United States. There was a lot of importance placed on this trip since Poland was a country on the rails of the Soviet Union and was known for resisting foreign tyranny. On top of everything else was the fact that Carter’s chief advisor on foreign policy was Polish and they, along with the world, had both watched the riots that occurred in Poland in 1976. To say the least, things were emotional.


So, Carter planned a speech to try and befriend the people of Poland. His translator, provided by the State Department, was 31-year-old Steven Seymour. Seymour was born in Russia and was proficient in four languages, however Polish was his fourth language. Not off to a great start.

They landed in Poland on Dec. 29, 1977 and problems hit the fan right away as Seymour began by translating Carter’s happiness to be in Poland as saying he had abandoned America to come to live in Poland. Whoops.

Carter then said how he applauded the Polish constitution; Seymour translated that as if Carter was ridiculing it. One of the worst moments was when Carter said he wanted to learn about the desires of the Polish. Seems nice, except for that Seymour translated it into something much more scandalous. The Polish papers translated into saying Carter wanted carnal knowledge of the Polish people. Seymour was silently replaced four days later.

The Award for Biggest Klutz goes to President Gerald Ford.

In 1974, Gerald Ford was sworn in following Richard Nixon’s resignation after the Watergate scandal. As the only vice-president and president to hold office without being elected, no one was quite sure what to expect. And no one expected a man who would be remembered, as the video below illustrates, by his numerous gaffes in the public eye.

George Bush Sr. vomits on the Japanese prime minister, on camera.

There isn’t much worse than getting sick and vomiting, but doing it on camera…on the prime minister of Japan…well that takes it to a whole new level.

You could almost feel bad for laughing but we have to admit, Bush dealt with the embarrassing debacle as best as he could.

Just before the embarrassing event, our 41st president passed out into the prime minister’s lap and had to be held up by his wife, Barbara, while she tried to cover his mouth. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and then it happened.

Bush was in Japan to ask for help in shrinking America’s deficit, so as if asking for help wasn’t hard enough, he went and got sick on the leader of their country.


Rumor has it that for years after, anytime someone got sick they would call it “Bushusuru,” or “to do a Bush.” We should probably bring that one back.

Dan Quayle spells P-O-T-A-T-O-E.

In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle was judging a spelling bee for sixth-grade students at a school in New Jersey. A 12-year-old boy by the name of William Figueroa was up and was asked to spell the word “potato,” which he did with confidence and ease.


Unfortunately the school had given Quayle a flash card with the wrong spelling on it which misspelled “potato” to “potatoe.” Based on the card’s information, he told William that he was incorrect. Say what?

Now Quayle should have recognized the mistake but just like the 2017 Oscars, he went with it rather than checking. He made the boy spell the word out on the blackboard and then had him add the “e” at the end.

The media, of course, went wild with this and became a bit relentless toward Quayle. His public image plummeted as every news outlet was delighted to make him out to be quite a moron. Even little William said, “It showed that the rumors about the vice president are true, that he’s an idiot.”

Quayle would go on to write in his memoir about the event, saying, “ It was more than a gaffe. It was a ‘defining moment’ of the worst imaginable kind. I can’t overstate how discouraging and exasperating the whole event was.”

FDR serves the King and Queen of England hot dogs and Cokes.

On June 11, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt hosted a state dinner. In attendance were King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, at Hyde Park, the Roosevelts’ home in the Hudson Valley.


This was the first time the reigning British monarch had stepped foot into the former colony, and to celebrate, Roosevelt threw a sort of backyard barbecue event with hot dogs, Cokes, smoked turkey, and strawberry shortcake.

The queen didn’t know how to eat a hot dog, while the king, on the other hand, was completely into it—in fact, he asked for more and even took some photos with his personal camera.

Roosevelt’s mother, who was in attendance, was reportedly disappointed and shocked at the less-than-formal affair, but it seemed to go over well as everyone was noted to have a good time.

FDR Library / Marist College

It worked too, as he showed the monarchs a simple country life in America and cemented relations with England just as Europe was on the brink of World War II.

George W. Bush gives Angela Merkel a back massage.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is notorious for being incredibly stern, proper, and down-to-business. She’s a role model for millions, but she certainly has a reputation. This reputation for being a strong, independent woman also includes the fact she really does not like to be touched. We don’t blame her.

G8 Summit 2007 Heiligendamm

At the 2006 G8 summit in St. Petersburg, President George W. Bush was going to get some fresh air; as he walked by Merkel he gave her a quick (albeit awkward) back/neck rub. She responded by flinging up her hands and turning back as if to say, “What the heck are you doing!?”

Bush kept walking, but the German papers took to print and wrote “Bush: Love Attack on Merkel.” There was a media frenzy as news outlets went as far as to ask if it was sexual harassment.

No charges were ever brought about as it was actually pretty blown out of proportion, but we have to wonder—what was Bush thinking?

Obama takes the Oath of Office…again…and again…

There are only two presidents to take the oath four separate times. One is Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected four times, and the other is our latest president, Barack Obama.

Larry Downing / AP

When Obama was re-elected in 2012, he had to take the oath twice due to the fact that Jan. 20—Inauguration Day— fell on a Sunday in 2013, so he had to take one oath to be president and another a day later for the official inauguration ceremony.

The other two times happened in 2009, after he won his first election, when he had to take the oath two separate times because the first one was said wrong by Chief Justice John Roberts. The oath is so important that its exact wording is actually written out in the constitution. The media immediately recognized the mistake: Obama was just repeating Roberts, so he didn’t know he had done it wrong. The White House was told they had to do it all over.

Pete Souza / Wikimedia Commons

They organized another inauguration and this time, Chief Justice Roberts went extra slow and got it right.

Dewey does not actually defeat Truman.

Now this isn’t an embarrassing mistake by a president himself, but it’s one of the more cringeworthy moments related to an election in our fine country’s history. On Nov. 3, 1948, the Chicago Daily Tribune published a headline that read, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Seems innocuous enough, except for that they were completely wrong.


The presidential race in 1948 was between incumbent President Harry Truman and his challenger, New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Post-victory, Truman was in St. Louis after a trip to his hometown of Independence, Missouri, and was going to Washington, D.C.. Someone who saw the headline handed him the paper as he posed for photos on the back of the train after his victory.

The Chicago Daily Tribune was a Republican paper and notoriously called Truman a “nincompoop” earlier in the year. So, he held the paper with pride when the results came in announcing that the actual president of the United States was once again, Harry S. Truman.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The reason the paper got it wrong was because the election was polling in favor of Dewey, and there was a newspaper printer strike going on so the paper had to get ready to print hours earlier and the election was not yet over—they had just gone with what they thought the outcome was going to be. Trust but verify, y’all.

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