The most memorable political gaffes of 2021

2021 had more than its fair share of awkward moments in politics

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American politics today may be incredibly divisive, but one thing continues to affect Democrats and Republicans alike: gaffes. Left or right, liberal or conservative, no one is immune to these embarrassing errors.

As in recent years, President Biden had his share of gaffes in 2021, but he was far from the only one. Here is a look back at some of the year’s most memorable.

Biden: 'I'm going to get in real trouble' for taking reporter questions

On several occasions, Biden has stated that he was not supposed to take questions from the press or would get in "trouble" with his staff for not obeying instructions.

Back in March, the White House raised eyebrows when it suddenly cut the feed of a virtual event after Biden said he was "happy to take questions" from Democratic lawmakers. 

"I'd be happy to take questions if that's what I'm supposed to do, Nance," Biden told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Whatever you want me to do."

The feed ended seconds later after a brief pause from the president.

In April, after speaking about new federal health guidelines for mask-wearing for vaccinated and nonvaccinated individuals, Biden answered a few shouted questions from gathered reporters at the White House.

"I'm sorry," he said, after listening to several questions. "This is the last question I'll take, and I'm really gonna be in trouble."

President Biden jokes about which reporter to call on for a question as he speaks about the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the State Dinning Room of the White House, Nov. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Biden jokes about which reporter to call on for a question as he speaks about the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the State Dinning Room of the White House, Nov. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In June, Biden joked when taking questions at a press conference following a G-7 summit, claiming that his staff will be upset with him if he does not conduct the event as it wants him to.

"I’m sorry, I’m going to get in trouble with staff if I don’t do this the right way," Biden said early in the question-and-answer portion of the program.

Not long after, however, Biden indeed appeared to stray from protocol by taking one last question after the event seemed to be wrapping up. Notebook in hand, Biden looked to be about to exit the stage but then hung around to listen to one more reporter.

"I’m going to get in trouble with my staff," the president said with a laugh. "Yeah, go ahead, but pretend I didn’t answer you."

Then in November, Biden again claimed he would face consequences for taking another question from the press following remarks about the passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. 

"I can take … I’m going to get in real trouble … this is the last question I’m taking," Biden said. 

Who exactly the leader of the free world would be in trouble with remains a mystery.

Pelosi thanks George Floyd for ‘sacrificing’ his life for justice

In 2020 most Americans agreed that George Floyd’s death was tragic, but not everyone was on board with how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterized his passing when a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering him.

Speaking alongside the Congressional Black Caucus shortly after the verdict was handed down, Pelosi looked to the sky and said, "Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. 

"For being there to call out to your mom," Pelosi went on. "How heartbreaking was that? [To] call out for your mom, 'I can't breathe.'"

"But because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice," the speaker added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, right of Pelosi, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus listen, Tuesday, April 20, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, after the jury convicted  former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, right of Pelosi, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus listen, Tuesday, April 20, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, after the jury convicted  former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Critics from both sides of the aisle blasted Pelosi's tone-deaf remarks. 

"Nancy Pelosi thanks George Floyd for being murdered," Huffington Post editor Philip Lewis summed up. 

"What in the actual f," New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz reacted.

"Ummm... he didn’t sacrifice his life... he was brutally, horrifically murdered. What the hell is this," Guardian writer Hannah Parkinson tweeted.

"Sacrifice implies he had a choice," LA Times reporter Melissa Evans similarly wrote.

Professor Barbara Ransby called out the House Speaker for the tone-deaf remark.

"Did Pelosi just say 'George Floyd, thank u 4 sacrificing your life for justice'? He did not SACRIFICE his life. His life was violently taken," Ransby said. 

"This type of lunacy is what happens when you view people as nothing but pawns for your cause," journalist Annika Rothstein said.

Greene refers to Guam as another country

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., showed an apparent lack of geographical knowledge back in February when she spoke at CPAC. Addressing the crowd, she touted her patriotism by stating that American dollars should be spent on the U.S., not other countries.

"I'm a regular person. And I wanted to take my regular-person, normal, everyday American values, which is, we love our country. We believe our hard-earned tax dollars should just go for America, not for what? China, Russia, the Middle East, Guam, whatever, wherever," she said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., center, stands with other GOP freshmen during an event at the Capitol in Washington. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., center, stands with other GOP freshmen during an event at the Capitol in Washington.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The problem with that statement, of course, is that Guam is part of the U.S. The Western Pacific island has been a U.S. territory – and the indigenous Chamorro people who live there have been U.S. citizens – since 1950. The U.S. has several military facilities on the island, and Guam has its own House delegate. The island also holds its own presidential primary races.

House Delegate Michael San Nicolas responded to the gaffe with good spirits.

"Congresswoman Greene is a new member, and we will be paying a visit to her and delivering delicious Chamorro Chip Cookies as part of our ongoing outreach to new members to introduce them to our wonderful island of Guam," Nicolas told the Guam Daily Post.

AOC cries after House votes to fund Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system

In September, after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other left-wing "Squad" members in the House lobbied to have funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system scrapped from a spending bill, House Democrats and Republicans swiftly came together to pass separate legislation to approve $1 billion for it with a 420-9 vote.

Despite her role in trying to prevent the funding in the first place, Ocasio-Cortez was not one of the no votes. Instead, the New Yorker voted "present" but made a show of letting the world know she was not happy about it.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., receives a hug from another member of Congress after funding for the Israel Iron Dome missile defense system was approved. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., receives a hug from another member of Congress after funding for the Israel Iron Dome missile defense system was approved.  (House of Representatives)

Soon after casting her vote, Ocasio-Cortez was seen crying on the House floor. She was soon called out for it, as critics questioned not just her sincerity but what it meant to express sorrow over protecting an ally.

"Theatre and bad theatre at that," Meghan McCain tweeted.

"The Iron Dome doesn't have offensive capabilities. It's a defensive weapon used to stop rockets launched by terrorists from killing innocent people. Why does that make her sad? Will anyone ask?" questioned the Daily Caller’s David Hookstead.

"@AOC didn’t cry for Afik, 4, murdered by a Hamas rocket at his kindergarten. Not for Yuval, 4 & Dorit, 2, killed by a terrorist rocket while playing in the street – or for countless others," commented Stand With Us Israel’s executive director, Michael Dickson. "She cried on finding out that the Squad failed to defund that protection for other kids."

Biden misreads TelePrompters

On Nov. 23, radio host and OutKick founder Clay Travis posted video in which Biden appeared to say, "End of quote," at the end of a sentence. Travis compared the president to Will Ferrell’s "Anchorman" character Ron Burgundy, who would read whatever text appeared on his teleprompter, implying that the words were not supposed to be part of the president’s address.

Reuters later reported that Biden had been quoting Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and had begun by saying, "And I quote," before using McMillon’s words and following with "end of quote."

No such explanation was available, however, when Biden spoke at a memorial ceremony for Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., at the Capitol Rotunda on Dec. 9. Biden read excerpts of a column Dole wrote for the Washington Post, concluding with, "And the message said, ‘end of message.’"

President Biden stands with first lady Jill Biden as they arrive for a congressional ceremony to honor former Sen. Bob Dole, at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Dec. 9, 2021.

President Biden stands with first lady Jill Biden as they arrive for a congressional ceremony to honor former Sen. Bob Dole, at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Dec. 9, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)

Dole’s piece did not say that or anything like it, again leading to speculation that the president was reading the directions included in his notes.

Biden refers to baseball great Satchel Paige as ‘the great negro’

Another awkward presidential moment came during Biden’s Veterans Day address at Arlington National Cemetery, when he mentioned baseball great Satchel Paige, who pitched in the Negro Leagues before eventually joining Major League Baseball late in his career. 

"I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro at the time, pitcher of the Negro leagues, who went on to become a great pitcher in the pros — in Major League Baseball — after Jackie Robinson. His name was Satchel Paige," Biden recalled during remarks while honoring former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Donald Blinken, an Army veteran and father of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Besides the obvious gaffe of calling Paige "the great Negro," Biden is technically mistaken in stating that Paige "went on to become a great pitcher in the pros," as the Negro Leagues were professional leagues. Additionally, MLB in 2020 officially recognized the Negro Leagues as holding "Major League" status, incorporating their statistics into MLB record books.

Biden had discussed Paige because he is not only famous for his pitching prowess but for continuing to win at a relatively advanced age.

"And Satchel Paige on his 47th birthday pitched a win against Chicago," Biden continued. "And all the press went in and said, ‘Satch is amazing. Forty-seven years old. No one’s ever, ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about being 47?’ He said, ‘Boys, that’s not how I look at it.’ And they said, ‘How do you look at it, Satch?' And he said, ‘I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’"

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Biden, 78, went on to joke that he is only 50 years old and the 95-year-old elder Blinken is 47.

Biden had also notably spoken of Paige during his meeting with Pope Francis the previous month.

Fox News’ David Rutz, Kelsey Koberg, Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.