January 2nd, 2013
12:56 PM ET
9 years ago

Boehner's F-bomb far from the first in the White House

(CNN) – The R-rated insult House Speaker John Boehner hurled upon Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week at the White House was a deviation from the normally diplomatic language of official Washington.

After all, it isn't every day that reports emerge of a top lawmaker telling another to "Go f*** yourself."

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But it's certainly not the first time a politician let slip what they were really thinking.

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney had a few choice words for Sen. Patrick Leahy in 2004 after the Vermont Democrat publicly questioned the vice president's ties to Halliburton, the oil field services company Cheney previously ran.

Sources who related the incident to CNN said the vice president told Leahy either "F*** off" or "Go f*** yourself" when the two ran into each other while the Senate was having its official group photo taken.

"I think he was just having a bad day," Leahy said afterwards. "I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the [Senate] floor."

It wasn't the first time Cheney had a brush with profanity on a public stage - his then-running mate George W. Bush called a newspaper reporter an "a**hole" during a joint campaign appearance in 2000. Cheney nodded in agreement, saying, "Big time."

Democrats are equally guilty of using adult language during private moments of frustration - or in Vice President Joe Biden's case, excitement.

A jubilant Biden leaned toward President Barack Obama and said, "This is a big f***king deal" before the president signed landmark health care legislation in 2010.

A microphone picked up the vice president's comments, and the censored acronym "BFD" soon started appearing on coffee mugs and t-shirts peddled by Obama's political organization.

Another Obama confidante, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has left a legacy of swearing through the various posts he's held, from Clinton aide to Illinois congressman to Obama's chief of staff.

One anecdote puts Emanuel in the face of Tony Blair, telling the British Prime Minister before an appearance with Bill Clinton: "This is important. Don't f*** it up!" That was during the scandal involving Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Obama himself - widely known for his "no drama" demeanor - told the "Today Show" during the Gulf Coast oil disaster that he was looking for "whose a** to kick." And during the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama termed his rival Mitt Romney a "bullsh***er" in an interview with Rolling Stone.

By all accounts, Romney himself was not prone to using curse words, either in public or in private. His anachronistic phrases, like "good heavens" and "golly," were about as vulgar as the former Massachusetts governor got on the campaign trail.

Presidents going decades back used profanity in their private conversations, though the absence of 24-hour cable news and the internet meant unguarded moments were less frequently made public.

When tape recordings of Richard Nixon were made public during the Watergate scandal, the phrase "expletive deleted" was littered through the transcripts. And his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was apparently worse; Nixon said when talking about his penchant for profanity, "People said my language was bad, but Jesus, you should have heard LBJ."

And before that, John F. Kennedy was recorded dressing-down an Air Force general after a report in the Washington Post showed an extravagant - and expensive - renovation aboard Air Force One.

"Well this is obviously a f***-up," Kennedy concluded after calling the man responsible for the article a "silly bastard."

One president who wasn't a fan of vulgarity - at least among his military - was George Washington. He made it known through his generals that he despised the "foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing" that he viewed as rampant among his troops.

Imagine what he'd think of Boehner.

Filed under: John Boehner • President Obama • White House
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Smitty wrote:

    Good for Boner , Reid is a jerk, any new yorker uses it constantley in every day conversation
    LOL. Like the way some folks say "shazzam, Sarge"? "Gee, paw" "Hot dawg, Uncle Jed."

    January 2, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. CavPilot

    RINO Bill - It was in the halls of Congress where Boehner said it. It was VP Biden that used the F-word in the White House, it was big "Big F-in Deal".

    Reid, who has blocked dozens of Bills from Senate votes is the real dictator on Capitol Hill.

    January 2, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. Jane Doe

    All he can deliver is F-you. That's what he's saying to all of us, and Gov. Christie has outlined that one. I guess he was late for a tanning session.

    January 2, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. Lucas

    He can say it him again next time he sees him for me and about a million other people. Nothing wrong with treating Reid the way he does everyone else.

    January 2, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Interesting professional vocabulary that you have there, Mr. Speaker. The fact that the word "compromise" is not included in your reportoire has been acknowledged and documented. I suggest that you leave the colorful metaphors for your party leaders in the right wing media.

    January 2, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. fsjunkie

    Harry Reid urges the Speaker of the House to actually bring a bill to the floor for a vote, and this is said Speaker's reply. If you are one of those dismissing this as not a big deal, you're missing something...probably the context that I just wrote about. Colorful language is one thing. It's to be used sparingly, and only when there is some manner of substance standing to benefit from the effects. Reid was being provocative in trying to bring a bill to a vote. Boehner was simply being vulgar and just wasn't thinking...makes you wonder if he was even smart enough to understand the "dictatorship" metaphor in the first place.

    January 2, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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