Thursday, July 14, 2016

6 jaw-dropping gaffes from Britain's new top diplomat

Boris Johnson has earned a reputation as Britain's most flamboyant politician, a man whose impressive vocabulary is matched only by his ability to offend at every turn.

So eyebrows were raised when Britain's new prime minister, Theresa May, named Johnson as foreign secretary in her Cabinet on Wednesday.

The job is one of the most senior roles in the British government. Like Secretary of State John Kerry, the British foreign secretary acts as the country's top diplomat.

One problem: Johnson has a wild history of making stunningly undiplomatic comments about world leaders — the people he will now have to work with. Here are just a few:

1. Hillary Clinton the 'Sadistic Nurse'

As well as his $180,000 government salary, Johnson also bags a cool $365,000 per year to write a weekly column in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

In Nov. 2007, he used his column to endorse Hillary Clinton during her first presidential bid. Except he had a rather strange way of showing his support.

"She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital," he wrote of the Democratic candidate.

Clinton, he said, had carried out the job of First Lady like "Lady Macbeth, stamping her heel, bawling out subordinates and frisbeeing ashtrays at her erring husband."

In fact, Johnson's only reason for supporting Clinton was because he wanted her husband back in the White House.

"For all who love America, it is time to think of supporting Hillary, not because we necessarily want her for herself but because we want Bill in the role of First Husband," he said.

2. Obama the 'Part-Kenyan President'

During the Brexit referendum, Johnson was one of the leading voices of the successful campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

This put him on the opposite side of the argument to President Barack Obama, and Johnson — the New York-born former London mayor — didn't pull any punches.

Writing in The Sun tabloid, Johnson called Obama a "part-Kenyan president" — referring to the birth country of Obama's father — and said the president had an "ancestral dislike of the British empire."

Johnson said Obama's views on the EU were "incoherent ... inconsistent and ... downright hypocritical."

Lawmakers from Britain's opposition Labour Party reacted furiously, calling the comments "dog-whistle racism," saying Johnson was a "moron" and accusing him of espousing "the worst Tea Party rhetoric."

Although Obama didn't react directly to Johnson's jibe, the White House had previously dismissed the former London mayor's "well-established reputation for rhetorical flourishes."


3. Trump's 'Stupefying Ignorance'

It's not just Democrats that Johnson has been busy offending. After Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," the U.K.'s new foreign secretary took aim.

He said Trump was "clearly out of his mind" and that his "ill-informed comments are complete and utter nonsense."

He accused the Republican of "stupefying ignorance" for suggesting immigration had created "no-go" areas of London.

"I would invite him to come and see the whole of London … except that I wouldn't want to expose Londoners to any risk of meeting Donald Trump," he said. "The only reason I wouldn't go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump."


4. Putin as 'Dobby the House Elf'

Johnson provided one of his typically humorous assessments on Russian President Vladimir Putin in Dec. 2015, comparing the leader to a character from the "Harry Potter" franchise.

"Despite looking a bit like Dobby the House Elf, he is a ruthless and manipulative tyrant," Johnson said, writing in his Telegraph column.

Like with his comments on Clinton, Johnson's insult was soon followed by something resembling a support of the Russian leader, arguing that the West should do a deal with Putin over the Syrian civil war.

Conservative MP Boris Johnson speaks as he visits Bristol on May 14, 2016 in Bristol, England.


5. A Very Rude Poem About Erdogan

In March, British politics magazine The Spectator ran a competition to see who could write the most offensive poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This was in response to a lawsuit brought by Erdogan against a German comedian who went on television and recited an insulting poem about the Turkish leader.

The Spectator's competition was won by Boris Johnson, who edited the magazine until 2005.

His entry involved Erdogan and references to masturbation and sexual intercourse with a goat.


6. Allegations of Racism

Johnson was forced to apologize for a 2002 newspaper column in which he used several racist words to describe the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's visits to other countries.

He suggested Blair would be greeted "with crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies" — an offensive term for a black child. He added that when the prime minister touched down in the Congo, the "tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles."

It was not until 2008 that Johnson apologized for the words. He said they were taken out of context and was "very sad that people have been so offended."

He added: "I'm absolutely 100 per cent anti-racist, I despise and loathe racism," and urged black Londoners who were outraged by the comments to "move on" and focus on other issues.

Alexander Smith


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