Top 8 Most Ridiculous Publicity Stunts in American Politics
Politicians are no strangers to pulling questionable political publicity stunts to further some agenda or to secure another term in office. Yet the stunt Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled has angered many as he flew roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts under false pretenses to draw attention to himself and his opposition to the border policies of the Biden administration.
Although he is getting the attention he wanted as this story is plastered over almost every media outlet, he might be looking at some charges as Javier Salazar, the sheriff of Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, said in a news release Monday that his office is investigating whether the migrants were victims of crimes.
DeSantis isn’t the first politician, and certainly won’t be the last, to make questionable or idiotic decisions when trying to grab the spotlight. Here we look at 8 of the biggest political publicity stunts that were either set up to fail or went horribly wrong.
1. This is Crack!
When it comes to bizarre political stunts we have to begin with the time President George H W Bush waved a huge bag of crack cocaine while sitting behind the Resolute desk. In an effort to get the public behind his increasing war on drugs, the 41st president of the United States decided he needed a prop to really get his point across.
Where did he get such a big bag of illicit drugs you might ask? It turns out that bag was acquired just a few days earlier in a park directly across from the White House. The Bush administration would admit later that they had set up a sting operation to lure drug dealers into that park so the President could have his prop for his show-and-tell.
2. Mission Accomplished?
We guess that President George W. Bush failed to learn from his father’s bag of crack props when he gave a televised address on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. And Bush Jnr would use more than one prop to make his point. Not only did he arrive in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, dubbed Navy One, wearing a flight suit, his team thought it would be a great idea to hang a banner behind him reading ‘mission accomplished.’
There was one slight issue, the mission was very far from being accomplished as not only were major military operations still taking place in Iraq, the US military’s presence would continue long after the now infamous banner was taken down. It wouldn’t be until 2008 that President Bush would agree to a withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq, and it took until December 2011 under Barack Obama, would the withdrawal be completed.
3. Sax The Way To Do It
Ever since the televised debate between cool-looking John F Kennedy and sweaty Richard M Nixon many argue won the Presidency for the Senator from Brookline, Massachusetts, politicians have been well aware of the power of television. And while politicians on the campaign trail had been known to make the odd appearance on entertainment talk shows, a savvy politician from Boulder Colorado would take it one step further.
In June 1992 Bill Clinton, having already secured the Democratic nomination, faced tough opposition from both the incumbent President George H W Bush and the billionaire business magnate Ross Perot who was running an independent campaign in the 1992 U.S. presidential election. Clinton needed something to help him stand out from the other candidates. He would get that when he appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show rocking a saxophone. Not only would he play two songs with the in-house band but he would sit for an interview with Hall. Something candidates only did with serious journalists up until that point.
4. A Trip To The Emmys
Politicians are always keen for their political stunts to appear somehow spontaneous. However, that was certainly not the case when former White House press secretary for the Trump administration, Sean Spicer, made a ‘surprise’ appearance at the 2017 Emmy Awards. After being called to the stage by comedian Stephen Colbert, Spicer would go on to parody his now infamous ‘this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period,’ by replacing the word ‘ inauguration’ with the word ‘Emmys.’
Politicians have long gone on television, especially to make fun of themselves once their reputation has been tarnished. This seems to be the case regarding Spicer’s appearance on the awards show stage. It appears to have worked, in conservative circles at least, as in March 2020, Spicer was given his own political talk show for the channel Newsmax TV called Spicer & Co.
5. Down The Hatch
Politicians have done many extreme things to make their point, but when it comes to risking their life in the process, no one outdoes Japanese MP Yasuo Sanada. After the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan caused critical damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant the government was quick to start a clean-up operation.
Unfortunately for Sanada, many journalists were openly skeptical about the government’s claim of successful decontamination of the surrounding water supply. In an astonishing effort to prove the skeptics wrong, Sanada would take a large gulp from a glass (apparently) filled with water collected from puddles under the reactor buildings. He would go on to say that the stunt doesn’t prove anything, the facts and figures he has to handle, do.
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6. The Birther Movement
Although former President Donald Trump can’t claim to be the first one to come up with this conspiracy theory, he is the one who ran with it. Some might argue, all the way to the White House. Despite Barack Obama being born on August 4, 1961, at Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, Trump would relentlessly claim that he was not an American-born citizen.
Even when Obama did release his official Hawaiian birth certificate in 2008, which was confirmed by the Hawaii Department of Health, Trump wouldn’t let a little thing like proof stop him from perpetuating this falsehood. This false claim about Obama’s birth would help Trump solidify his credibility with the American far-right. The same people who would help him secure the 2016 Presidency.
7. Off Their Head
It’s not just politicians who use the publicity stunt to garner attention, many celebrities have pulled ridiculous, and in this case distasteful, stunts. When comedian Kathy Griffin was upset with then-President Trump’s negative comments about Megyn Kelly, in 2017 she decided in her infinite wisdom that the best way to make a statement was to pose for a photo holding up a bloodied replica of President Donald Trump’s head.
As you can imagine, regardless of your political affiliations, this went down like a lead balloon with Griffin losing her job as co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve show and having to cancel her tour. She would apologize for the stunt, but would pretty quickly retract it. Arguably, this political stunt is still having a detrimental effect on Griffin’s career.
8. Not A Touchdown
In August 2016, when Colin Kaepernick first decided to sit down during the national anthem (it would soon change into taking a knee) at an NFL preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers, it would spark a political debate that would divide the country. Some believed Kaepernick has the right to peacefully protest against racial inequality however he chooses, while many on the right saw it as disrespectful, none more than President Trump.
So when vice president Mike Pence attended an Indianapolis Colts game they were hosting the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick’s former team, walked out as soon as the players took the knee, they so desperately wanted it to like a spontaneous moment of outrage. The problem with that was that Pence had already told his press pool to be ready to capture photos of his prompt exit.
Trump would eventually weigh in on this so-called spontaneous event by tweeting that it was indeed a planned political stunt orchestrated by Trump himself. A political stunt that cost the American taxpayer over $240,000.
And since we cannot talk about gaffes without also shining a light on corruption, you should also read about these corrupt politicians that got arrested! We bet we did not like the publicity!