The 25 Worst Political Gaffes and Embarrassing Moments of the '00s

Decade in Review: 2000-2009

Revisit the most memorable political scandals, gaffes and mishaps from the '00s, as well as classic jokes that kept us laughing through the schadenfreude.

Senator Larry Craig (R-estroom) gave new meaning to the word caucusing when he was caught playing footsie in an airport men's room with his infamous "wide stance." Needless to say, the comedians had a field day mocking Craig, or as David Letterman dubbed him, "The Restroom Don Juan." Craig announced his resignation, then reversed his decision after "talking it over with guy in stall number 3" (Conan O'Brien), angering his Republican colleagues, some of whom "stopped having sex with him" (Jimmy Kimmel). The staunchly anti-gay lawmaker denied being a hypocrite, saying, "Hey, I wasn't trying to marry the cop in the bathroom" (Conan). Later, he was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame—not the entire hall, "just the men's room" (Jay Leno). More »
When Dick Cheney mistook a 78-year-old lawyer for a quail, he became the first sitting vice president to shoot a man since Alexander Hamilton. Comedians everywhere declared open season on Cheney: "The real question now is, is this a one-time thing, or will the vice president try to kill again?" asked David Letterman. "In fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil," joked Jimmy Kimmel. "It's amazing, the only time you get accountability out of this administration is when they are actually holding a smoking gun," quipped Bill Maher. More »
In what became known as the "shoe heard 'round the world," an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad. The incident sparked a wave of comedy, including amusing Internet mock-ups featuring Bush ducking things like pies and snowballs, as well parodies inspired by Austin Powers and The Matrix. As Jimmy Kimmel joked, "This is the country we thought had nuclear weapons. It turns out they have a pair of size 9 Hush Puppies instead." More »

At a rally following his third-place finish in the 2004 Iowa Caucus, Howard Dean emitted a crazy, red-faced, vein-popping scream that was replayed hundreds of times on cable and broadcast news shows. Dean's "I Have A Scream" speech also quickly gained cult-like status on the Web, inspiring a series of hilarious mashups. Dean's campaign quickly fizzled amid a chorus of heckling. As Jay Leno joked, "Howard Dean announced today he will campaign in seven states. The states are Rage, Frenzy, Fury, Rath, Fever, Agitation, and Delirium. Yeeeeaaaah!" More »

In what may be the most damaging interview any candidate on a presidential ticket has ever given, Sarah Palin dispensed one idiotic statement after the next to CBS's Katie Couric. Palin was widely mocked for her failure to think of any Supreme Court decisions other than Roe v. Wade; her failure to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads other than "all of 'em, any of 'em"; and her claim to foreign policy expertise because Vladimir Putin likes to rear his head and fly over Alaskan airspace. It teetered on such self-parody that all Tina Fey had to do on "Saturday Night Live" was repeat parts of Palin’s answers verbatim, gosh darnit, and also there too, you betcha! More »

After paying a late-night visit to his former mistress and his child at the Beverly Hills Hilton, John Edwards was confronted by a National Enquirer reporter who questioned him about where he had come from. Edwards did what any self-respecting ex-Senator and presidential aspirant with nothing to hide would do: He fled into a bathroom and tried to hold the door shut. Edwards later admitted to the affair, but denied for more than a year that he had fathered the child. Or, as the humor site Fark reported it: "John Edwards: Billie Jean IS my lover, but the kid is not my son." More »
Mark Foley resigned from Congress after reporters got a hold of a series of sexually explicit emails and IM's he sent to underage male pages. Foley spent most of his career protecting children from Internet stalkers, presumably because he didn't like the competition. A sampling from Foley's IMs: "How's my favorite young stud doing? ... Did you spank it this weekend yourself? ... Is your little guy limp or growing? ... What you wearing? ... Love to slip them off you and grab the one-eyed snake." As Bill Maher quipped, "Republicans have sex the same way they govern -- barely legal." More »
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer rose to power as a sanctimonious crusader against ethics violations and corruption, but he didn't let that get in the way of his taste for high-priced hookers. As Attorney General, Spitzer had famously busted prostitution rings, apparently so he could keep them all for himself. Spitzer was forced to resign after being outed as Client No. 9 at the Emperor’s V.I.P. Club. Jay Leno was confused: "He's the governor — who were the eight guys in front of him? You’d think as governor, you'd at least get to go first." More »
After he went missing for several days, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford became a national laughingstock when it turned out he was not "hiking the Appalachian Trail," as his staff claimed, but was in fact off in Argentina chasing tail. "It turned out he was down there because he was sleeping with a woman from Argentina. Once again, foreigners taking jobs that Americans won't do," David Letterman joked. "Just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis," quipped Jon Stewart. More »
10
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Palin Punk'd by Prank Call

Just days before the 2008 election, a Canadian comedy duo prank called Sarah Palin and convinced her she was talking to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Palin failed to pick up on any of the hints that the conversation was a joke, even when he said, with an exaggerated Pepe Le Pew-style accent, "From my 'ouse, I can see Belgium," boasted that his wife was "hot in bed," and praised the documentary about her, Hustler's "Nailin Palin." McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt reportedly went ballistic when he heard about Palin being duped, while Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "I'm glad we check out our calls before we hand the phone to Barack Obama."
11
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Tom DeLay Shakes His Booty on 'Dancing With the Stars'

It's hard to imagine imagery more cringe-worthy (or likely to cause psychological scarring and/or burning of the eyes) as that of Tom DeLay shaking his geriatric ass on national TV. When the former House Majority Leader and indicted criminal appeared on the 2009 season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," he cut loose to "Wild Thing," doing the cha cha in his orthopedic shoes, sliding across the stage, playing air guitar, and shaking his booty at the camera. As Newsweek's Holly Bailey wrote, "Somewhere in Idaho, Larry Craig is leaning in very close to his television."
12
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Lieberman Declares He Has 'Joementum' in New Hampshire

Before losing the 2004 New Hampshire primary, Joe Lieberman declared that his campaign was gaining "Joementum." On election night, he celebrated his fifth-place finish by laughably declaring himself in a "three-way split decision for third place." After he dropped his presidential bid a week later, Slate correspondent William Saletan paid tribute to Lieberman in a "Joebituary," writing that he had suffered "Joemiliation" and wound up as "Joadkill" after going "Joe-for-7" in the primaries. "Joe revoir, Joe. Joerivederci. Hasta Joe Vista. ... There is no Joe in Mudville."
13
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Bush Gropes Germany's Chancellor

While attending the 2006 G-8 summit, President Bush raised eyebrows when he gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a creepy, uninvited neck rub. As Jon Stewart characterized it, "The chancellor of Germany disengaged herself from the president of the United States using a move she learned in date rape prevention class."
14
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Palin's Turkey Pardoning Goes Horribly Awry

As we learned during the 2008 campaign, when Sarah Palin talks, disaster follows. But usually it's not this vivid. During a turkey pardoning photo-op in Alaska shortly after the 2008 election, Palin gave an interview and yammered on while turkeys were being slaughtered in the background, completely oblivious to the carnage unfolding behind her. From David Letterman's Top 10 Sarah Palin Excuses For Turkey Slaughter: #10. "I can see Russia, but I can't see what's going on 5 feet behind me."
Federal prosecutors nailed ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-bag) for trying to sell President Obama's Senate seat, recording a series of profanity-laced conversations in which he said things like "I've got this thing and it's f**king golden," "I'm just not giving it up for f**king nothing," and "Give this motherf**ker Obama his senator? F**k him. For nothing. F**k him.'" Shocking as it was, Americans were ultimately more shocked by his hair, which was described by various observers as a perfect bird's nest for some black crows, cotton candy coated with black spray paint, Klingon helmet hair, or something you'd see on "Animal Planet" or "Unsolved Mysteries." More »
The former New Jersey governor resigned after confessing to carrying on a secret homosexual affair with an Israeli poet. Later, in a tell-all book, McGreevey also recounted how he used to cruise highway rest stops to have anonymous sex with gay truckers. Jay Leno asked the pertinent question: "At what point do you stop having anonymous sex at truck stops and say to yourself, 'I'm tired of this, I’d rather be governor'?" More »
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Condi Rice Refers to Bush as Her Husband

President Bush's "warrior princess" committed one of the great faux pas of all time at a Washington dinner party. Condoleezza Rice normally chooses her words with careful precision, which is why jaws dropped when she made a revealing slip of the tongue. Rice, who is unmarried, was reportedly overheard saying, "As I was telling my husb—" before abruptly stopping herself. She continued: "As I was telling President Bush."

When President Bush busted a move and got jiggy with it alongside African dancers at a White House event to promote Malaria awareness, the world quickly learned that he dances about as well as he speaks. It wasn't the only time he showcased his lack of rhythm for all the world to see. See also: Bush's Tap Dance, Bush's African Dance Party, and Bush's Saudi Sword Dance. More »

19
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'MC' Karl Rove Raps and Dances

Karl Rove (AKA "Bush's Brain") cut loose and gave an impromptu rap performance at the 2007 Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner. As Politico reported, "His arms flailed, he mugged, he shimmied, he crossed his hands, he backed it up, his BlackBerry became a prop, his voice went guttural, he took it up an octave." Jon Stewart came up with his own Rove rap: "From the West Wing to the Crawford Ranch / Karl Rove has destroyed the executive branch / He has no scruples and I don't mean maybe / He said John McCain had a secret black baby / F**k that guy."
20
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Ted Stevens Calls the Internet a 'Series of Tubes'

While serving as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing on Net Neutrality in 2006, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens helpfully explained that the Internet is "not a truck, it's a series of tubes." Stevens' laughable statement inspired widespread mockery across the Intertubes (including this classic techno remix), as well as hilarious derision from The Daily Show, which milked Stevens' dump-truck-tubes symposium for every laugh it was worth.

Barack Obama was widely heckled after bowling a 37 while attempting to woo blue collar voters in Pennsylvania. As one pundit put it, "He bowls like my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter." Obama's bowling embarrassment was compounded when he attempted to joke about it months later during an appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." He compared his bowling prowess to the Special Olympics, and ended up having to issue an apology afterward. After rolling two gutter balls, Obama discovered that bowling is probably a subject best avoided. More »

During the 2008 presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton tried to prove her foreign policy bona fides by boasting how as first lady she once landed in Bosnia under sniper fire. Her account was debunked when video footage showed her being greeted on the tarmac not by gun shots, but by a young girl’s poetry reading. "If only she had channeled that active fantasy world into her marriage," quipped Bill Maher. More »
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McCain Strikes Zombie Pose after Debate

In one of the most amusing images of the 2008 campaign, John McCain was caught on camera sticking out his tongue as he walked off stage the wrong way following the final presidential debate. Photoshoppers went wild mocking "Zombie McCain." In fairness, though, if you'd just been bashed and bludgeoned in in three successive debates and knew you were about to become political roadkill, you'd look like that, too.
Bill And Hillary Clinton left the White House amid controversy when it was revealed that they made off with all kinds of household goods, including china, flatware, rugs, televisions, sofas. They later returned some $28,000 worth of furniture, but as Jimmy Fallon noted, the dollar amount was actually much lower as many of the items were "stained." More »
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Bush Jokes About Failure to Find WMDs in Iraq

As part of a bizarre comedy skit at the 2004 Radio & TV Correspondents' Association dinner, Bush showed a series of photos depicting him searching for those elusive WMD's in the White House. Because who doesn't find it hilarious when the commander in chief makes a mockery out of his entire rational for war.
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Kurtzman, Daniel. "The 25 Worst Political Gaffes and Embarrassing Moments of the '00s." ThoughtCo, Jun. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/worst-political-gaffes-of-the-00s-2734591. Kurtzman, Daniel. (2017, June 20). The 25 Worst Political Gaffes and Embarrassing Moments of the '00s. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/worst-political-gaffes-of-the-00s-2734591 Kurtzman, Daniel. "The 25 Worst Political Gaffes and Embarrassing Moments of the '00s." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/worst-political-gaffes-of-the-00s-2734591 (accessed November 23, 2017).