Obama, Duterte and other notorious political insults


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he regrets calling his US counterpart Barack Obama the “son of a whore“.

His controversial comments have led to diplomatic consequences with the US president cancelling a scheduled meeting with Mr Duterte.

But the Philippine leader, who has insulted prominent figures before, is not the only one guilty of offending world leaders.

From a “sadistic nurse” to “the devil” himself, here are some of the more memorable comments made by or about those in positions of power.

Arafat the ‘son of 60,000 whores’ (1999)

The then Syrian defence minister General Mustafa Tlass, known for his colourful language, triggered a diplomatic row with the Palestinian Authority when he described its leader Yasser Arafat as the “son of 60,000 whores”.

Gen Tlass, who launched the outspoken attack on Mr Arafat in a speech in 1999, said: “You should have told the White House that Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian state but instead you stayed as quiet as a mouse and did not dare say a single word in favour of Palestine or Jerusalem.”

His comments led to demonstrations in Gaza with thousands of Palestinians protesting at the personal attack on their leader.

Bush is ‘the devil’ (2006)

In a dramatic speech to the UN in September 2006, the then president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, famously described his US counterpart George W Bush as the “devil”.

The Devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.

“And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here. And it smells of sulphur still today.

“Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.”

On the same podium in 2009, Mr Chavez cautiously welcomed Mr Obama’s new administration. Looking around, he said: “It doesn’t smell of sulphur any more. No, it smells of something else. It smells of hope, and you have to have hope in your heart.”

Farage and the ‘damp rag’ (2010)

When a sentence begins with the words “I don’t want to be rude”, you should probably prepare to be offended.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) at the time of his speech to MEPs in the European parliament, launched into a personal attack on Herman Van Rompuy that lasted several minutes.

He said the president of the European Council had “the charisma of a damp rag”.

He compared the former Belgian prime minister to a “low-grade bank clerk” and said he came from a “non-country”.

The attack, which stunned the chamber, came as Mr Van Rompuy made his maiden appearance in parliament in Brussels.

Berlusconi and the Nazi guard (2003)

The EU was plunged into a grave diplomatic crisis following former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s “Nazi guard” remarks to a German MEP, Martin Schulz.

MEPs threatened to break off relations with the EU’s top decision-making body, the European Council (headed by Mr Berlusconi at the time), unless a formal apology was given.

“I know that in Italy there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps,” Mr Berlusconi said, adding: “I shall put you forward for the role of Kapo [guard chosen from among the prisoners] – you would be perfect.”

As the controversy over his remark intensified, he responded: “I’ll try to soften it and become boring, maybe even very boring, but I am not sure I will be able to do it.”

Abbott’s run-in with Putin (2014)

Tony Abbott, then Australian prime minister, controversially threatened to “shirtfront” Russian leader Vladimir Putin ahead of the November G20 summit in Brisbane.

Mr Abbott’s comment was made after the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine, in which 38 Australians were among the 298 killed.

Russia was criticised for backing the rebel separatist fighters blamed for shooting down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane.

The term “shirtfront”, commonly associated with the rough and tumble of Australian football, means to target an opponent with a head-on charge aimed at bumping them to the ground.

The two appeared cordial when the meeting took place.

Clinton a ‘sadistic nurse’ (2007)

Hillary Clinton could be the next US president. And as leader of “the free world”, she would be a useful person to have in your corner.

Not known for her sense of humour, it was unlikely that she would have been amused by this description from UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Back in 2007 Mr Johnson said: “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”

In 2016 he said his outspoken comments had been “taken out of context“.

Maduro tells Almagro to shove it (2016)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pulled out a string of epithets for the head of the Organization of American States (OAS,) Luis Almagro.

He called him “rubbish”, a “traitor” and told him: “Mr Almagro, you can take your Democratic Charter, put it into a thin tube, and shove it wherever it fits.”

In a series of Twitter posts addressed directly to Mr Maduro, Mr Almagro also called him a “petty dictator”.

After the remarks, the former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said President Maduro was “mad as a goat”.

The comments were made after Mr Almagro called an emergency meeting over Venezuela’s “institutional crisis”, a move that could have led to Venezuela’s expulsion from the OAS.

Trump questions Obama’s citizenship (2011)

He has blamed US President Barack Obama for everything from Brexit to the rise of so-called Islamic State (IS), but Donald Trump’s request to see Mr Obama’s full birth certificate triggered a long-running debate – and a string of conspiracy theories.

The colourful billionaire was convinced that Mr Obama was actually born in Kenya and offered the president $5m to reveal his college and passport records.

Later, at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, Mr Obama said: “As some of you heard, the state of Hawaii released my official long-form birth certificate.

“Hopefully this puts all doubts to rest, but just in case… tonight for the first time I am prepared to go one step further, I am releasing my official birth video.”

The screen in the conference hall then cut to a clip from the Disney film The Lion King. “Oh well,” Mr Obama added, “back to square one”.

President Kirchner an ‘old hag’ (2013)

The Uruguayan president was caught on microphone at the start of a news conference apparently referring to his Argentinean counterpart as an “old hag”.

President Jose Mujica, allegedly referring to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, was overheard in a recording in 2013 saying: “This old hag is even worse than the cross-eyed man.

A Uruguayan newspaper posted audio of his comments on its website, which led to official protests in Argentina.

President Mujica later denied that he had been talking about the Kirchners. To this day he has failed to explain whom he was referring to.

Archbishop Tutu is ‘evil’ (2004)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe hit out at South Africa’s former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, calling him an “angry, evil and embittered little bishop”.

The two are not known to be the closest of friends with Archbishop Tutu earlier saying that Mr Mugabe resembled a caricature of an African dictator.

Mr Mugabe’s comments were made in an interview with Sky News.

Archbishop Tutu, who won the Nobel peace prize for his efforts as one of the leading figures in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, did not comment on Mr Mugabe’s verbal attack.



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