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Top 10 Embarrassing U.S. Presidential Moments

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Ryan Hechler. No President has ever been perfect! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 embarrassing U.S. presidential moments. For this list, we’re taking a look at some of the most politically embarrassing incidents suffered by U.S. presidents throughout American history. Note that we’re talking much more serious incidents than a politician just tripping down stairs or having to dodge shoes. We’re surprised these politicians stayed in the limelight after these moments. Special thanks to our users Rico Goldstar for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Ryan Hechler.

Top 10 Embarrassing U.S. Presidential Moments


No President has ever been perfect! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 embarrassing U.S. presidential moments.

For this list, we’re taking a look at some of the most politically embarrassing incidents suffered by U.S. presidents throughout American history. Note that we’re talking much more serious incidents than a politician just tripping down stairs or having to dodge shoes.

#10: George W. Bush
Mission Accomplished Speech (2003)

In what many deemed an expensive publicity stunt, President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln on an Air Force jet to announce the conclusion of major combat in the Iraq War. Bush then delivered a televised address in front of a banner that featured the words “Mission Accomplished.” While Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had hastily edited out any mention of “Mission Accomplished” from President Bush’s speech, the image of that banner will forever be burned in the minds of citizens and media alike. The mission was far from over, as the U.S. did not fully remove military personnel from Iraq until December 2011.

#9: Thomas Jefferson
The Embargo Act (1807)

The American public was upset at Britain after the English forcibly took more than 10,000 American sailors in the Royal Navy, which blatantly disregarded America’s international position as a neutral nation. Frustrated, President Jefferson approved the Embargo Act of 1807 to prevent all American exports abroad, thinking it would punish the European power. Instead, it failed miserably and the U.S. lost key trading partners during its earliest years as a nation. Almost immediately, unemployment rose and port regions rapidly faced economic depression. The Embargo Act immediately disappeared with the end of Jefferson’s presidency in 1809.

#8: Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Internment of Japanese Americans (1942-46)

After President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the U.S. detained more than 110,000 Japanese Americans out of fear they may empathize with Japan’s military cause during World War II. More than 60% of those interned were U.S. citizens. Many Japanese Americans were still in these camps after the war’s end. It wasn’t until 1988 that surviving victims of this terrible moment in U.S. history began to be paid $20,000 a piece in reparations, a minor sum in comparison to the property losses, forced unemployment, and human rights abuses they faced.

#7: Ronald Reagan
Iran-Contra Affair (1985-87)

As a staunch conservative, President Reagan was not pleased with Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. Determined to topple this political regime, he orchestrated the illegal selling of military arms to Iran and diverted the funds to the Contras, a right-wing Nicaraguan military movement based out of Honduras. Reagan knowingly bypassed a U.S. embargo on Iran and a funding ban on the Contras. Once these events came to light, Reagan was quickly embroiled in one of his most controversial political moments. While there were Congressional hearings, Reagan was able to continue his presidency.

#6: Woodrow Wilson
The Espionage & Sedition Acts (1917-18)

President Wilson passed the Espionage Act in 1917 and the Sedition Act in 1918. These acts severely curtailed American Freedom of Speech during World War I and launched the U.S. into its First Red Scare. The acts legally backed the Palmer Raids of 1919 and 1920; and during this time, many foreign communists and anarchists residing in the U.S. were deported. The political environment created by these acts caused many American citizens to be viewed as enemies of the state simply due to their political beliefs or even ethnic backgrounds.

#5: Bill Clinton
The Lewinsky Scandal & Impeachment (1998)

While President Clinton was not the first president to have had a publicly known extra-marital affair, he was the first to face an impeachment trial in the 20th century due to his infidelities. Clinton had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Pentagon employee Linda Tripp secretly recorded her phone conversations with Lewinsky – wherein she revealed intimate details of the affair – and turned these tapes over to an Independent Counsel, which was already investigating Clinton on other matters. The resulting impeachment trial was the most sensationalized media moment of Clinton’s presidency. While Clinton was impeached, he was ultimately acquitted of all charges and completed his final presidential term.

#4: James Buchanan
His Presidency (1857-61)

Many tend to view Buchanan as being the worst president in American history. Buchanan did little to lessen the rift between the North and South leading up to the American Civil War; he was more concerned with expanding the boundaries of the United States and seemed content with merely confining slavery to the states and newly absorbed territories that practiced it. Buchanan never ran for a second term and was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln. A month after he left office, the United States descended into Civil War.

#3: John F. Kennedy
The Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)

On April 17, 1961, the CIA-backed a paramilitary force of anti-Castro Cuban ex-pats, intended to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro’s left wing Communist government. But, the insurgency failed miserably. While the plan was hatched under the Eisenhower administration, the newly elected JFK approved of its implementation during his presidency. Immediately after the failed invasion, Cuba more openly shifted their allegiance to the Soviet Union. Embarrassed and furious, Kennedy openly criticized the debacle and famously declared that he wanted to take the CIA and “scatter it to the winds.”

#2: John Adams
The Alien & Seditions Acts (1798)

After the French Revolution, the fledgling U.S. government shifted their international interests in favor of Britain. In retaliation, France started to seize American trader ships and rebuked the U.S. Minister to France. Aggravated at what has become known as the “Quasi-War,” President Adams signed four bills into law that suppressed political dissidents and threatened deportation of foreigners not aligned with U.S. policy. The Acts fiercely divided American politics and ultimately Adams was not re-elected for a second term.

Before we get to our number one most embarrassing presidential moment, here are some honorable or, in this case, dishonorable mentions:

- George Washington
The Whiskey Rebellion (1791-94)

- James Garfield
Star Route Scandal (1881)

- Andrew Jackson
The Petticoat Affair (or The Eaton Affair) (1830-31)

- Barack Obama
HealthCare.gov Launch (2013)

#1: Richard Nixon
The Watergate Scandal & Resignation (1970-74)

Many presidents have survived a wide variety of political mistakes and abuses of power… but not President Nixon. In the hopes of guaranteeing his re-election in 1972, Nixon and members of his administration authorized the wiretapping of the Democratic Party’s Headquarters. The plot came to light when five conspirators bungled the break-in. After denying his involvement and using the CIA, FBI, and IRS to bully political opponents, it was discovered that the Nixon administration was directly involved. Rather than face impeachment, he became the first U.S. president to resign from office.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the most embarrassing U.S. presidential moment? For more excellent Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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