Mistakes happen to the best of us, but when they happen to the leader of the free world, everyone takes notice. Here are a few cringeworthy times presidents made one simple error in their public addresses.
While answering questions from the press after his surprising détente with China in 1972, Nixon mistakenly said, “Relations with China are in the best interest of Mom.” Although it seemed odd at the time, this apparently was not an uncommon mistake for Nixon to make, as the infamous Nixon White House tapes include 57 instances of this blunder over the course of 3,700 taped hours.
Due to how often he spoke directly to the public during his famous fireside chats, in addition to serving as president for over a decade, odds were that FDR would eventually call the nation “Mom” by accident. During June 12, 1944’s “Opening Fifth War Loan Drive” chat, FDR mistakenly concluded his address by saying, “So, I just want to thank you, Mom, for everything you’ve given up for the war effort.” Incredibly embarrassed, Roosevelt was only able to mumble a correction, and he never again took to the radio to address the American public.
During one of his final speeches as president, Adams finished his remarks by saying, “Throughout my presidency I have learned that there is one great thing in my life, and it is Mom.” It likely would have just seemed like a sincere compliment directed to his mom, but, as he revealed in numerous diary entries following his presidency, no mom compliment was ever planned, and the incident was one of his greatest regrets.
Though it is still considered a watershed moment for race relations, Kennedy’s thought-provoking and moving address on civil rights was slightly hindered when halfway through the speech he said, “We need to ask ourselves what kind of mom we’re building for our children. The question is whether all moms—black moms and white moms—are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, and whether we are going to treat our fellow moms as we want to be treated.” Kennedy was assassinated later that year for an unrelated reason.
There’s no record of Johnson ever accidentally calling the nation “Mom,” but, given all his other fuckups, you have to imagine he probably made that mistake once or twice.