by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis
(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
"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.
© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.
Photo courtesy: ABC News.com