You think the Mooch is so bad? That's bull — He's got bipartisan company in the foul-mouthed world of American politics.
Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director at the White House, might have taken public sector profanity to a new low in this week’s New Yorker interview, but the country boasts a long history of occasionally salty presidents, their vice presidents and aides. You just may not have known it at the time.
From “Give ‘Em Hell Harry” Truman who called General Douglas MacArthur a “dumb son of a b----” to Vice President Dick Cheney telling Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy to “f--- yourself,” America’s top politicians have not been reluctant to express themselves in strong language.
Scaramucci shocked more than a few readers with his vulgarity during a telephone call with a New Yorker writer Wednesday night, saying of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, “Reince is a f------ paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” Of chief strategist Steve Bannon, he said to Ryan Lizza, “I’m not Steve Bannon. I’m not trying to suck my own c---.”
Scaramucci later tweeted that he had “made a mistake in trusting in a reporter,” but Lizza says Scaramucci never asked that the conversation be off the record.
As Rolling Stone recalled in a round-up of presidential profanity in 2012, Richard Nixon and the Watergate tapes put the phrase “expletive deleted” on the map. The difference today is the expletives are blasted on social media and make their way into news stories immediately instead of over hot mics or years later when unearthed by historians. News organizations have wrestled with how explicit their reports should be in recent years. Ground zero in the latest round: Donald Trump's infamous "p---y" tape.
The decade-old Access Hollywood recording was released in October during the presidential campaign.
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“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet,” Trump said to Billy Bush, then an anchor for the show, in 2005. “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the p----."
His predecessors had their moments, too — rude, profane, sometimes crude if not as misogynistic, at least not publicly. Here are a few of them.
Truman explained to Merle Miller, the author of “Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman,” why he had fired MacArthur in these words: “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. That’s the answer to that. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a b----, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
President John F. Kennedy told his brother, Robert, of the Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker: “I don’t want to see that boring son of a b---- again.”
Many of President Richard Nixon's racist, bigoted comments were, of course, caught on the White House tapes. Here are some of his observations about various ethnic groups: “The Jews have certain traits. The Irish have certain - for example, the Irish can't drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I've known gets mean when he drinks. It's sort of a natural trait. Particularly the real Irish,” Nixon said.
“The Italians, of course, just don't have their heads screwed on tight,” he said. “They are wonderful people, but . . .” he trailed off, adding later: "The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”
And on the day that Nixon announced Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, domestic policy aide John Ehrlichman, White House counsel John Dean and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst were resigning, he told Haldeman: “It’s a tough thing, Bob, for you, for John, the rest, but God damn it, I never want to discuss this son of a b---- Watergate thing again. Never, never, never, never.”
Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, when informed of one Watergate article the Washington Post was about to publish, famously said of its publisher, Katharine Graham, “All that crap, you're putting it in the paper? It's all been denied. Katie Graham's gonna get her t-- caught in a big fat wringer if that's published.”
One of the most repeated stories about Lyndon Johnson is that he consulted with advisers, even with biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, while on the toilet.
As far as profane comments, here is one example, according to President George H.W. Bush, who had told Johnson he wanted to run for the U.S. Senate: “And he said, ‘The difference between the Senate and the House is the difference between chicken salad and chicken s---,’” Bush said.
President Bill Clinton’s aide Rahm Emanuel warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair, “Don't f--- it up,” during Blair’s 1998 visit to the White House during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
George W. Bush did not realize the microphone in front of him was on when he insulted then New York Times reporter Adam Clymer during the presidential campaign in 2000. Bush called Clymer a “major-league a------.”
Cheney cursed at Leahy during an argument on the Senate floor in 2004 over Cheney’s ties to the Halliburton Co. and the company’s contracts in Iraq. Cheney later acknowledged the comment.
And President Barack Obama in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2012 called his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, “a bull------er.”