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Worst Blunders By World Newsmakers in 2010

  • Ron Synovitz

2010 had its share of blunders by newsmakers around the world. The most blatant examples show that when cameras are running or microphones are on, poorly calculated remarks can become a public relations disaster for politicians, diplomats, business executives and even senior military commanders. Here are the best of the worst.

BP Boss: 'I'd Like My Life Back'

"There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I'd like my life back."

BP's former chief executive Anthony Hayward clumsily tried to express solidarity with Gulf coast residents whose livelihoods were destroyed by the ruptured Deep Horizon oil well beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

He won no sympathy -- especially after taking a break a few weeks later from overseeing BP's cleanup and containment efforts to watch his private yacht compete in a race around the Isle of Wight against the boats of other millionaires.

In October -- seen as a political, financial, and legal liability -- Hayward was forced to step down as BP's chief executive officer. U.S. President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, concluded that Hayward has no chance of a "second career in public relations consulting."

2. Gordon Brown's 'Bigoted Woman'

"That was a disaster. They should never have put me with that woman. That's just ridiculous. She's just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean, it's just ridiculous."

Britain's former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was campaigning in April for his Labour Party when he was caught on a broadcast microphone describing a voter as a "bigoted woman."

Brown apparently forgot he was wearing a Sky News microphone after speaking to 65-year Gillian Duffy -- a lifetime supporter of Labour who challenged him on issues like the immigration of Eastern Europeans to Britain.

Brown told Duffy he was glad to meet her. But once inside his car, the microphone caught Brown telling an aide what he really thought about being confronted by Duffy in front of news cameras.

The faux pas didn't help Brown or his party when voters went to the polls on May 6. Labour lost its grip on power and a new coalition government was formed by David Cameron's Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

3. Top U.S. General Lets Down His Guard

"Joe Biden? Did you say, 'Bite Me'?"

General Stanley McChrystal -- the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan -- was relieved of command by U.S. President Barack Obama after he and his aides repeatedly criticized key Obama administration officials in front of "Rolling Stone" magazine reporter Michael Hastings.

McChrystal said he'd found Obama to be "uncomfortable and intimidated" by top military brass. One of the general's aides said Obama "didn't seem very engaged" in their first meeting, and that McChrystal was "pretty disappointed."

McChrystal was particularly skeptical about Richard Holbrooke, Obama's senior envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan. McChrystal's aides jokingly referred to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as "Bite Me." Hastings reported that McChrystal's staff also seemed to enjoy disparaging Obama's top diplomats. One aide called retired four-star General Jim Jones a "clown" from the Cold War era who remained "stuck in 1985."

4. Senior Iranian Cleric Inspires 'Boobquake'

"Many women who do not dress modestly...lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which [consequently] increases earthquakes."

Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior Iranian cleric, was leading Tehran's Friday Prayers in April when he blamed earthquakes on women who wear revealing clothing. The statement made Sedighi a laughing stock around the world -- and an unintentional inspiration for satire.

In response, "Boobquake" day was spawned as a "humorous exercise in scientific and skeptical thinking" about "ridiculous" claims. Going viral on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, tens of thousands of women around the world bared their cleavage, wore short shorts, or intentionally exposed their hair and ankles to see if they could spark earthquakes or increase the intensity of tremors.

There was no significant increase in the number of earthquakes around the world. In fact, the average magnitude of earthquakes around the world on "Boobquake" day decreased slightly.

5. Putin's Lada -- Don't Believe The Hype

Lada's are "reliable" and "comfortable."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's publicity stunt for a Russian automaker backfired when amateur video revealed the true nature of his 2,000-kilometer drive across Siberia in a yellow Lada Kalina. Putin had urged Russians to buy the Lada Kalina, calling the car "reliable" and "comfortable."

But video posted on the Internet from Siberia showed onlookers bursting into laughter as Putin's entourage drove past with three of the Ladas -- including one that needed to be hauled by a truck.

The amateur footage was seen by hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet -- standing in sharp contrast to official Russian television reports suggesting Putin made his entire voyage alone in one Lada.

6. Zardari Travels Europe While Pakistan Floods

We are "losing the war against the Taliban because we have lost the battle for hearts and minds."

President Asif Ali Zardari fueled contempt in Pakistan during the summer by touring Europe while much of his country was under water from the worst flooding in living memory.

As Zardari was in Paris announcing the international community had lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Afghans, private television channels in Pakistan showed images of Zardari's European trip on one side while Pakistani villagers were being swept away by floodwaters on the other.

7. Cameron's Foreign Policy Goofs

"I think [Turkey] will be a good political influence for us because they can help us solve some of the world's problems…like the fact Iran has got a nuclear weapon."

British Prime Minister David Cameron was accused by his political opponents of being a "foreign policy klutz" when he announced that Iran has a nuclear weapon. Cameron's blunder was in a speech supporting Turkey's European Union membership aspirations.

Cameron also offended Pakistan during a visit to its arch-rival India when he said Islamabad must stop promoting "the export of terror" and must not be allowed to "look both ways" on terrorism.

8. NATO: Kabul As Safe For Kids As Western Cities

"Here in Kabul...the children are probably safer here than they would be in London or New York or Glasgow or many other cities. Most children can go about their lives in safety."

NATO's top civilian liaison in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, shocked and angered Afghans in an interview he gave for a BBC children's television program.

Downplaying the fears of Kabul children and parents about suicide bombs and kidnappings, Sedwill suggested life for children in Kabul is no more dangerous than for children in major Western cities.

9. Yanukovych Lost For Words

"Today, we already see the installation of our New Year's...tree. And people will soon being celebrating the New Year."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's native language -- like a majority of the population in eastern Ukraine, where he draws strong support -- is Russian. He has been making efforts to speak better Ukrainian and win over voters in the western part of the country. But the effort sometimes backfires.

During a government meeting in early December, Yanukovych apparently could not remember the word for "fir tree" in Ukrainian -- "yalynka." Instead, after a long and uncomfortable silence, the president instead used the Russian word "yolka."

10. Berlusconi Jokes About Hitler

"A short while after Hitler's death, his supporters learned he was still alive. They searched everywhere for him, and after a while they found him in a far-off village in the Andes. 'Fuehrer! Fuehrer! You have to come back! Democracy has failed and everybody is waiting for you!' For three days they insisted on his return, but he always said no. Finally, they managed to convince him. He said: 'I'll come back, but on one condition.... The next time I will be really evil.'"

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi continued to demonstrate his unusual sense of humor during 2010 -- telling politically incorrect and offensive jokes in the midst of a political crisis that saw him narrowly survive a December vote of confidence.

One of Berlusconi's most offensive jokes -- about Adolf Hitler -- was made on a stage in front of an audience at a time when critics were calling for his resignation.

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