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. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Golly gee, CNN. Didn't we just have an election ... and didn't Romney lose said election? Good heavens. You guys really need to put Romney talking points into retirement. He is (and always was) a non entity.

    January 2, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. Bradley Hunt

    Washington was renowned for knowing when and how to swear, and when he popped off, it was the stuff of legend, like the speech Chevy Chase gives in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. As Washington was known to swear at inept people in his army, he'd probably swear these Congress' face off.

    January 2, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  3. mmd

    how many of them were drunk.

    January 2, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Hmmph. They're all men. I wonder how many times the word has been uttered by women.

    January 2, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    What's the B.F.D.?

    January 2, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. Mark Acay

    Those Are typically pwt languages which are very much part of American daily conversations. Americans, by nature are not very religious, Americans are violent people which they loved being referred to.

    January 2, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. BigTBone

    Any day now Johnny will have a serious Jobs Bill to vote on.

    After all, they ran on jobs, jobs, jobs in 2010, didn't they?

    Mr Boehner, the frustration you feel is exactly how most of us have felt for 4 years with your do-nothing, single digit approval congress. The implosion and cannibalism of your House makes for great drama.

    January 2, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Then you have good old Nelson A. Rockefeller, who flipped the bird. Made a real good photo, too!

    January 2, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Washington Is Out Of Touch with reality

    more than an "F" bomb should have been dropped and the only dictator is obaam and the demoncrats, a Storm Is Coming.

    January 2, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. Winning

    Can't blame him entirely, I guarantee Boehner was drunk at the time.

    January 2, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. Sueb

    I have no problem with him using the word; but to go back and brag about it to other republicans? What is he 12?

    January 2, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  12. TC

    What professionals we have in these positions! and to think we continue to vote for everyone of these professionals over and over again. How long will it take dems and repubs to vote out these pillars or society and vote 3rd party or at least not the incumbent

    January 2, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. TC

    to think America continues to vote for everyone of these professionals over and over again (insanity I thikn they call it when you repeat behavior but expect a different result). vote 3rd party or at least not the incumbent

    January 2, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  14. Smitty

    Good for Boner , Reid is a jerk, any new yorker uses it constantley in every day conversation

    January 2, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. bombastus

    Yes, but as Clint East Wood said, Boner suggested Reid do something to himself that is anatomically impossible,

    January 2, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. fsjunkie

    Well, I'm just glad that Boehner is the self-proclaimed "most reasonable and responsible person in Washington," and so easy to deal with. Who knows what could have come out of his mouth during such delicate negotiations if he was a vulgar person unfit to be Speaker of the House. (sarc)

    January 2, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. Really?

    Perhaps the author of this article could have been a little less bias and spent a little more time mentioning where the "go f yourself" comment came from. When the leader of the Senate's majority party calls the Speaker of the HOuse a dictator and that the only goal the dictator has it to protect his position as speaker, then he opens himself up for said "go f yourself". Lets not let Harry Reid get away as the victim of mean ole Mr. Potter (Boehner). And if you want to use old history references, had Reid done this in the 18th century or early 19th century, this confrontation would have ended in a gun fight behind the Capitol ..and call me crazy, but I would take Boehner in that fight.

    January 2, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  18. PJ

    What else do you expect from God fearing Republicans.

    January 2, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  19. California Gary

    In the heat of "battle", it comes as no surprise to me that politicians get excited and speak to each other in terms that the rest of might use under similar circumstances. Politicians of both parties have been caught speaking in this manner, and I have no problem with it.

    January 2, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. ST

    Sorry I disagree with the excuse of others using the same horrible word. It has been an intense time during the fiscal cliff discussions that involved a lot of people pay the attention and waiting for the outcome. While Boehner and Reid were in a heated discussion, by using that F.. bomb could have resulted in punching each other if Reid could not had hold his anger. Imagine while people were waiting for the outcome, end up hearing both have been rushed to hospital due to a fight!

    January 2, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  21. S McC

    The profanity listed in this blog falls into two categories, and they are entirely different, even if both lack decorum.

    The first category is profanity aimed at a situation:

    Biden's "This is a big f***king deal"
    Obama's "whose a** to kick."
    Kennedy's "Well this is obviously a f***-up,"

    The other far more offensive category is when the expletive is aimed solidly and personally at others:
    Boehner's "Go f*** yourself."
    Cheney's "F*** off" or "Go f*** yourself"
    Obama's "bullsh***er"

    In those cases a personal and a public apology is appropriate, though probably not forthcoming.

    The quality of insult in modern politics is just not there. Why can't we get anything like Senator John Randolph's description of Edward Livingston " He was a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks."

    Now there is an image worth repeating.

    January 2, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  22. irunner

    As a former Marine, there are no virgin ears in my house. You folks that get your panties in a bunch over words should grow up.

    January 2, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. RINO Bill

    Well John Boehner just oozes class all around. He says the f-word to a Dem in the White House, and then he turns around and f***s the NY and NJ victims of Hurricane Sandy

    Has the soon-to-be former Speaker of the House been tested for Asberger's or Turret's lately?.

    Just asking...

    January 2, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. Newspaper boy

    Leave it alone folks. I mean jeez. I'm 62 and my favorite pol was Abbie Hoffman. Now HE had a mouth... ;-D

    January 2, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  25. mark8000

    Grow up, folks. We've all heard the f-word before and most of us have used it. What's important here is who said it and in what context. When Boehner said "f-you" to Reid, translated into polite language it meant, "I lack the leadership skills to persuade my caucus to accept any kind of a compromise. For that reason, we lost and you guys won! I hope Conservative Republicans learned something from the experience, but I doubt they did."

    January 2, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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