Quantcast

Is this thing on? World leaders' Top 10 hot mic gaffes

Bryony Jones and Tim Hume | 5/12/2016, 9 a.m.
In the space of a day, Britain's two most powerful people -- Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron ...
President Barack Obama said Thursday, november 3, 2011 that resolving the debt crisis in Europe is the top priority for world leaders as they gather here for talks on the global economy. Obama said he discussed the uncertain political situation during a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Cannes. (POOL)

— In the space of a day, Britain's two most powerful people -- Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron -- have been publicly reminded of the perils of a hot mic.

Cameron was first, when his candid remarks to the Queen about Nigeria and Afghanistan -- calling them "fantastically corrupt" and "possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world" -- were captured on camera.

The comments provoked a storm online and drew a rebuke from Nigeria's presidential spokesman, who said they were "embarrassing."

Shortly afterward, footage emerged of the Queen telling a senior Metropolitan Police officer that Chinese officials had been "very rude" during President Xi Jinping's first state visit to Britain last year -- potentially complicating relations with the superpower.

For people accustomed to living in the media's glare, it's surprising how often world leaders forget the golden rule of broadcasting: Always assume the mic is live.

Here are some of the most memorable occasions when things have gone wrong:

1. Obama, Sarkozy talk trash about Netanyahu

President Barack Obama and his then-French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, came under fire in November 2011 after they were overheard talking about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the G20 summit.

Sarkozy told Obama: "I can't stand him. He's a liar," according to French website Arret sur Images.

Obama is reported to have replied: "You're tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day."

2. Obama slams Kanye West

Obama should have had no excuse for the Netanyahu incident, as he had been caught two years earlier making another gaffe when he described the polarizing rap superstar Kanye West as a "jackass."

The President was addressing the controversy over West storming the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to gate-crash Taylor Swift's big moment.

"The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person, she's getting her award. What's he doing up there?" Obama said during an off-the-record portion of a TV interview. "He's a jackass."

Another reporter in the room tweeted out the remark, and footage of the comments later leaked online.

Obama doubled down on the comment three years later to a journalist from The Atlantic but tempered the criticism with the observation that the rapper was "talented."

3. Gordon Brown on 'bigoted' voter

Then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's 2010 campaign was not going well, but he had no idea how much worse it was going to get when he stopped to chat with a voter in Rochdale, England, a week before the election.

Gillian Duffy, a 66-year-old pensioner, proceeded to berate Brown, explaining why -- despite having backed his Labour Party all her life -- she was now ashamed to admit her political allegiance.

Brown kept up a polite conversation with her as the TV cameras looked on, then drove away unaware his microphone was still on.

Once inside the car, he complained to advisers: "That was a disaster. They should never have put me with that woman. ... Ridiculous ... bigoted woman."