Outrageous presidential statements in history

Trump is not the first U.S. president to say shocking, undignified comments. But he does it more than most, except for some such as Nixon.

When Donald Trump took over the White House in 2017, he vowed to act more dignified and mature than he had on the campaign trail. “I will be so presidential, you will be so bored,” he promised.

But if you tune in to newscasts or dare to read Trump’s Twitter feed, you know that has not been the case. He called entire nations “shithole” countries and athletes “SOBs.” He makes up childish nicknames — many of which don’t even rhyme or use alliteration — and calls opponents “losers” like he’s a middle-school bully, not president of the United States. He continues to issue rants that make you wonder if he is planning to start a Def Comedy Jam for old, white, nationalistic wannabees.

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Is Trump more shocking and racist than Tricky Dick? Probably not. [Photo by Darren Halstead/Unsplash]

If you look throughout history, almost every president has said outrageous and/or bigoted public statements. George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and others considered Native Americans to be inferior to white people. Many insulted black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, while praising white nationalist groups.

Even Barack Obama called a woman reporter “sweetie” while campaigning in 2008, sparking a crisis, especially on Fox News. But Trump has taken that to another level, particularly for modern-day presidents, with the notable exception of Richard Nixon, whose White House tapes are mind boggling with how bigoted and offensive he was.

The following are some of Trump’s more disgraceful utterances in public and on Twitter since he “won” the Electoral College [some of his statements before then were arguably more repulsive].

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries [Haiti, El Salvador and many African nations] come here?”— White House meeting, January 2018, according to Washington Post report

“Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time.” — tweet on Nov. 18, 2017

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’” — tweet on Nov. 11, 2017

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now?’” — from speech at Alabama rally, Sept. 23, 2017

Some 15,000 people from Haiti who received U.S. visas “all have AIDS.” About 40,000 Nigerians would never “go back to their huts” once they visited the U.S. — White House meeting, June 2017, according to New York Times report

“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’” — tweet on June 11, 2017

“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.” — from speech before the Coast Guard Academy on May 17, 2017 [many noted that four presidents have been assassinated in office, two impeached but not removed, and one resigned in disgrace]

“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do.” — tweet on Dec. 31, 2016

Some say that other presidents have taken worse actions than Trump, such as making the office less dignified through lying our way into a major war, a la Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush. They have a point.

So far, Trump hasn’t sent young men and women into combat en masse for questionable reasons. He has done other questionable actions, such as wreck the environment, implement tariffs that are hurting American family farms, the kids-in-cages policy, and his bromance with certain dictators. He sets you on edge, making you wonder what dominoes will fall later. Perhaps that is by design, but it makes you wonder what havoc could ensue if he is allowed a second term.

Since we are comparing statements, here are some from previous presidents. Some are from conversations or letters meant to be private, including before or after they were in the White House. But presidents have to know that nothing they say or write in their lifetimes will remain private.

“To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” — Ronald Reagan, phone conversation with Richard Nixon referring to United Nations Tanzanian delegates who celebrated a vote, October 1971

“He [Reagan] saw these, these, uh, these cannibals on television last night.” — Richard Nixon, who laughed at Reagan’s racist comments, ensuing phone conversation with Secretary of State William Rogers, October 1971

The fellow out there in the immigration service is a kike by the name of Rosenberg…. Transfer him to some other place out of Los Angeles…. I want you to direct the most trusted person you have in the immigration service that they are to look over all of the activities of the Los Angeles Times— all, underlined. And they are to send their teams in to see whether they are violating the wetback thing.” —Nixon, White House tapes, October 1971

“I have the greatest affection for them [blacks], but I know they’re not going to make it for 500 years…. The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time, they steal, they’re dishonest. They do have some concept of family life. They don’t live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.” — Nixon, White House tapes, May 1971

“I’m not saying that blacks cannot govern; I am saying they have a hell of a time.” — Nixon, conversation with Harvard professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1971

“Son, when I appoint a nigger to the court, I want everyone to know he’s a nigger.” — Lyndon Johnson, to an aide about the appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, 1967

“I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent, and not a nigger or a Chinaman… I am strongly of the opinion that Negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America.” — Harry Truman, letter to Bess Truman, 1911

“A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane; the Negro, for instance, has been kept down as much by lack of intellectual development as by anything else.” — Theodore Roosevelt, North American Review, 1895

“There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior. And I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” — Abraham Lincoln, debate in Illinois, Sept. 18, 1858

“They [Native Americans] have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.” — Andrew Jackson, Fifth Annual Message, December 1833

“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782

“The immediate objectives are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more.” — George Washington, order to Gen. John Sullivan, May 1779

Written by

Written for 45+ newspapers/mags. Written some books — see https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J.-Shay/e/B004BCQRTG. Visited 48 states, 30+ countries.

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