Diplomatic is not a word often associated with Boris Johnson, new British Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprise choice for foreign minister.
The former London mayor has a history of using his rapier wit — often in his regular newspaper columns — to mock other leaders and peoples, making for some awkward moments in the months to come.
Not all of his tackles have been rhetorical. During a trade visit to Japan in October 2015 he accidentally took out a 10-year-old boy during a game of street rugby.
The bumbling mop-haired politician known internationally as simply “Boris” also has a knack for being photographed in unflattering poses.
One of the most iconic images shows him dangling in mid-air, a British flag in either hand, after getting stuck on a zip wire during the 2012 London Olympics.
– Hitler-inspired EU –
In May, Johnson accused the EU of trying to create a superstate, continuing what he called a thousand-year-old tradition of trying bring the continent together under a single government.
“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods,” Johnson told The Sunday Telegraph in remarks that caused outrage in Brussels.
– ‘Sadistic nurse’ Hillary Clinton –
Writing in the Daily Telegraph in November 2007, when Clinton was running against Barack Obama for the US Democratic presidential nomination, Johnson described her as follows:
“She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”
Before meeting Clinton last year he sought to paper over the comment, saying he was sure the “very distinguished” White House hopeful would take it “in the light-hearted spirit in which it was intended”.
– ‘Part-Kenyan’ Obama –
In April, Johnson created a storm by suggesting that Obama had removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because of anti-British feelings linked to his African heritage.
“On day one of Obama’s administration it was returned, without ceremony, to the British embassy in Washington,” Johnson wrote in the Sun newspaper.
The ensuing row dominated the first day of Obama’s visit to London where he pushed for Britain to remain in Europe.
“Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire, of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” he added.
– ‘Wankerer’ Erdogan –
In May, Johnson won a prize for most rude poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the Spectator magazine which organised a contest in support of a German comedian facing charges for mocking the Turkish leader.
Johnson, whose great-grandfather was Turkish, came up with the following rhyme.
“There was a young fellow from Ankara/Who was a terrific wankerer/Till he sowed his wild oats/With the help of a goat/But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”
– African ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ –
Writing about then Tony Blair’s globetrotting ahead of a visit by the then prime minister to Africa in 2002, Johnson said he would be hailed by “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”.
“No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas (machetes) will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird,” he wrote.
Johnson apologised for the remarks when challenged about them six years later.