On Wednesday, newly minted British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that former London mayor Boris Johnson is joining her government as foreign secretary.
The notoriously wild-haired Johnson is a controversial pick for a few reasons, not least among them that he made no bones about his distaste for outgoing Conservative prime minister David Cameron, whose government he faulted for inducing “a kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning” in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
But Johnson also has a track record of questionable statements and a penchant for insult directed at other foreign leaders and countries—many of whom will presumably occupy the majority of his time and energy as foreign secretary.
So to congratulate him on his new job, here’s a quick and far-from-comprehensive tour of some of Johnson’s most objectionable quips, writings, and remonstrations in the realm of foreign policy.
- In 2003, Johnson described U.S. President George W. Bush as “a cross-eyed Texan warmonger, unelected, inarticulate, who [epitomizes] the arrogance of American foreign policy” in an unsigned editorial in the Spectator.
- In a 2005 Telegraph column, he wrote “…compared with the old British Empire, and the new American imperium, Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase….Chinese culture seems to stay firmly in China. Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all imitative of western forms…. The number of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, though there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to Stanford and Caltech.” Three years later, Chinese media decried him as “arrogant, rude and disrespectful” when accepting the Olympic flag from China during the 2008 games:
- In a 2006 column, also for the Telegraph, Johnson wrote “For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.” After backtracking furiously, he said he would “add Papua New Guinea to my global itinerary of apology.”
- Last December, he advocated joining forces with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it is not “morally impossible” to work with them to defeat ISIS.
- In an op-ed published in April, he claimed President Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office upon assuming the presidency in 2009 because “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,” comments several leading British members of Parliament (rightly) condemned as racist.
- In May, he claimed top prize in a Spectator magazine poetry competition challenging contestants to pen offensive lyrics about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a limerick that referred to Erdogan as “a terrific wankerer” and imagined him having intercourse with a goat. Cheeky.
- He’s also ripped into the EU, lambasting its trade and tariff policies and comparing its continent-unifying aspirations to Napoleon Bonaparte’s nineteenth-century attempts at European domination and Adolf Hitler’s vision of German expansionism: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” he said in a May interview with the Telegraph. “The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”
- And regardless of which way the U.S. presidential election tips come November, Johnson seems to have rankled both presumptive nominees in equal measure. During Hillary Clinton’s first run for the White House, in 2007, Johnson referred to her as “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” criticizing her for embodying “purse-lipped political correctness,” and reviving a long-discredited conspiracy theory that claims she and then-President Bill Clinton conspired to murder Vince Foster, a close friend and White House aide who committed suicide in 1993.
- And in March, Johnson said he’s “genuinely worried” that Donald Trump will be elected president. That happened after Johnson was apparently mistaken for the business mogul during a trip to New York. “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump,” he said.
Best of luck, Boris.