Politics

Politicians with their foot in their mouth

Updated 9:30 AM ET, Mon August 12, 2013
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Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska used an ethnic slur when referring to immigrant workers, telling a Ketchikan Public Radio station: "My father had a ranch. We used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. ... It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine." The slur "wetback" is a reference to those who illegally enter the United States by crossing the Rio Grande on the Mexican border.

The 21-term Republican, who is currently facing an ethics probe related to campaign finances, isn't the first politician to stick his foot in his mouth. Here are a few others:
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During his impeachment trial, President Bill Clinton denied lying to staff about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky by arguing that "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

While his parsing words were ridiculed, he was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999.
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In response to presidential candidate Jerry Brown's charge that then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was funneling state funds through his wife's law firm, Hillary Clinton replied: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life."

The 1992 campaign trail quote not only pegged Hillary as a feminist but also led to a cookie recipe competition that has lasted through subsequent presidential elections.
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During a 1995 interview with a group of radio broadcasters, former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey referred to homosexual Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank as "Barney Fag."
The Texas Republican later apologized, calling it a "slip of the tongue."
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As George H.W. Bush accepted the Republican nomination for president in 1988, he famously said, "Read my lips, no new taxes."
A little over a year into his presidency, Bush signed a congressional budget agreement that, indeed, raised income and other taxes.
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Asked if sexting photos that surfaced on Twitter were of him, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, replied: "You know, I can't say with certitude."

Weiner resigned his seat in Congress over the matter in 2011.
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Speaking before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1983, Interior Secretary James Watt referred to the diversity of his special advisory council by saying: "We have every mixture you can have. I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple."

He resigned soon after.
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On live television, Vice President Joe Biden was picked up on a microphone congratulating President Barack Obama on the 2010 passage of health care reform, saying: "This is a big f---ing deal."
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In 1984, Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson made offensive remarks about Jews in a conversation with a reporter. References to them as "Hymie" and to New York as "Hymietown" later appeared in the Washington Post.

Jackson apologized during a speech at a New Hampshire synagogue.
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While Senate minority leader, Trent Lott praised Sen.
Strom Thurmond at a retirement party for the South Carolina Republican in 2002. "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either," Lott said.

Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist. Lott, a Mississippi Republican, later said the his statement was intended to endorse Thurmond as a man, not his beliefs. Lott resigned his leadership post over the controversy and since left the Senate.
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Addressing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during his 1992 presidential campaign, Perot made the mistake of referring to his mostly black audience as "you people."
Perot later apologized, declaring that he hadn't intended to offend anyone.
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Vice President Spiro Agnew made more than one racially insensitive gaffe during his time in the public eye. On separate occasions during the 1968 presidential campaign, Agnew referred to a Japanese reporter as a "fat Jap" and to Polish-Americans as "polacks." Hulton Archive/Getty Images/File
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain demeaned the country of Uzbekistan during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2011.
In reference to receiving "gotcha" questions from the media, Cain said: "I'm ready for the 'gotcha' questions and they're already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I'm going to say, 'you know, I don't know. Do you know?'"
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Former U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri made provocative comments in regards to rape in 2012. While speaking to a St. Louis television station, the Republican congressman said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Akin's comments caused widespread controversy and led to several fellow Republican candidates to condemn his statement. He lost is bid for higher office.
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While running for U.S. Senate in Indiana in 2012, Richard Mourdock made inflammatory statements on rape and conception. At a debate, the Republican state treasurer said: "I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that's something God intended to happen." He lost his race. Scott Olson/Getty Images/File
At a campaign rally in 2006, former U.S. Sen. George Allen made an insensitive racial remark to an Indian-American staffer from his opponent's campaign, referring to him as "Macaca."

The Virginia Republican continued by implying the rally-goer was not native to the United States, saying that: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great ... Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

The remark effectively cost Allen, the state's former governor, re-election.
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