To his supporters, a ribald wit with a healthy disrespect for political correctness; to his critics, a reckless foul-mouth - John McCain has often attracted attention for cracking jokes that might politely be described as “offbeat”.
Today, liberal tempers flared once again after the Republican nominee quipped that Guantanamo was “one of the nicest places in the world to live in” during a Q&A at the Aspen Institute (see the video below). So on the occasion of this latest demonstration of his legendary humour, we’ve compiled a list of McCain's ten worst “jokes”.
1. The rape joke. During his 1986
Senate campaign, he told the following joke in front of a number of
journalists: “Did you hear the one about the woman who is
attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly
and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to
speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly
ask, 'Where is that marvelous ape?'"
2. The “Bomb Iran” song. Earlier
in his presidential campaign, McCain was asked by a participant at a
town hall meeting when the US “should send an air mail message to
Tehran”. He replied: “Do you know that old Beach Boys song,
Bomb Iran?” before proceeding to sing “Bomb bomb
bomb” to the tune of the hit Barbara-Ann
3. The one about killing Iranians. In July,
McCain was asked by reporters on the campaign trail about data showing
a ten-fold increase in US exports to Iran during Bush’s
presidency, with a particular rise in tobacco exports. “Maybe
that’s a way of killing them,” he replied, chuckling awhile
before adding: “I meant that as a joke.” Iran,
understandably, was not so amused.
4. The Chelsea Clinton joke. At a Senate
Republican fundraiser in 1998, when Chelsea was just 18, he took aim at
both her appearance and that of the then attorney-general . "Why is
Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" he asked guests. "Because her father is Janet
5. The one about waterboarding. Despite
previously condemning primary rival Rudy Giuliani for comparing the
race to torture, McCain made a similar reference at a press conference
with Florida governor Charlie Crist in January this year. When Crist
was asked by reporters whether McCain had pressured him for his
endorsement, McCain, a torture victim himself, interjected: "It was
6. The other ones about waterboarding. About
a month later, McCain made a very similar joke reported in the New York
Times. With his presidential hopes apparently fading, a number of his
staff had deserted the campaign, only to return when McCain resurrected
his bid with a New Hampshire victory. There was, he jibed "a
short period of waterboarding to find out what they did in their
7. The Fidel joke. In February amid reports
of Castro’s failing health, McCain told a town hall in Indiana,
"I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon."
8. The Alzheimers jibe. Shortly after
President Reagan had been diagnosed with the degenerative illness,
McCain made the following joke at a Republican fundraiser. “ Do
you know the best thing about having Alzheimer's?” he
asked. “You get to hide your own Easter eggs.”
9. The IED joke. When appearing on the
admittedly satirical (and liberal-leaning) programme The Daily Show
earlier this year, McCain joked that he'd brought host John Stewart an
improvised explosive device as a gift from Iraq. The jibe drew
criticism from relatives of US soldiers, over 1,700 of whom have been
killed by IEDs.
10. The one about the French. In
an interview with Fox News, McCain aimed at America’s allies in
Afghanistan. "You know," he began, "the French remind me a little bit
of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her
looks but doesn't have the face for it."
But despite his penchant for a little not-so-gentle ribbing, McCain
doesn't cope very well on the receiving end. During his 1992 Senate
campaign, a little inter-spousal teasing got out of control when, in
front of aides and three reporters, his wife Cindy playfully twirled
his hair and noted that he was thinning a little on top. His reply? "At
least I don't plaster make-up on like a trollop, you c**t."