Checkout the White House Republican hopeful, Donald Trump, the billionaire business mogul’s 37 fatal gaffes that would have destroyed other U.S. politicians’ careers — not Trump . . .
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The beginning of the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump included statements that would have ended the campaign of any other politician. Has an announcement speech ever looked so much like a flashily produced political suicide? Did he really just call a key part of the electorate criminals and rapists?
Ever since his blunt, racially divisive debut in Trump Tower in June 2015, Trump has proven that gaffes do not singe his hide like they do the fragile and fretful politicians who tiptoe through the typical campaign for public office. Time and again, Trump poured gasoline on himself and lit a match. Time and again, pundits predicted fatal self-immolation. Instead, Trump often rode the ensuing firestorm like an Atlas rocket. His poll numbers actually went up after he insulted John McCain’s war record. What mainstream politician has ever said something like that, much less received a boost out of it? The only thing more stunning than Trump’s dismantling of campaign norms has been how consistently he has flirted with disaster.
He has insulted brown people, black people, Muslim people, Jewish people. He has insulted women. He has insulted the grieving parents of a dead soldier. He has mocked a disabled person and expressed admiration for dictators. He has ham-handedly pandered to a politically critical portion of the population by posting to social media a picture of gringo Tex-Mex captioning it, “I love hispanics!” He has suggested he could shoot somebody and not lose votes. He has openly talked about the possibility of the assassination of his opponent. Twice. And these are just the insults, not the demonstrable falsehoods.
It helped him dispatch 16 challengers in the extended primaries of a party of which he has been an off-and-on member, and it has taken him to Monday night, to the first of three debates against Hillary Clinton—his best chance yet to get an edge in the race to become the 45th president of the United States. Amid the pre-debate speculation that he could say something at the debate that would cost him the election, it’s difficult to imagine what he could say that would do what so many other statements of his were unable to and end his campaign.
Here are 37 of his gaffes that could have been fatal—but somehow weren’t.
1. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” June 16, 2015, announcement speech.
2. “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” July 17, 2015, Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. Trump was referring to Senator John McCain, a former Navy pilot who was tortured during his five-and-a-half years as a POW during the Vietnam war.
3. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” August 7, 2015, CNN interview about Megyn Kelly, one of Fox News’ moderators in the first Republican debate.
4. “Well I really watch the shows. You really see a lot of great, you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.” August 16, 2015, interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” trying to name his foreign policy advisors.
5. “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” September 9, 2015, in Rolling Stone, talking about GOP candidate Carly Fiorina.
6. “It has not been easy for me … My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.” October 26, 2015, on NBC’s “TODAY” show.
7. “@mygreenhippo #BenCarson is now leading in the #polls in #Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain? #Trump #GOP.” October 22, 2015, retweet by @realDonaldTrump.
8. “I want to know who are the soldiers carrying suitcases with $50 million? How stupid are we? I wouldn’t be surprised if those soldiers, if the cash didn’t get there.” October 1, 2015, speech in Keene, New Hampshire, suggesting U.S. soldiers embezzled cash intended for disbursement to officials in Iraq and Afghanistan.
9. “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy. ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’” November 24, 2015, physically mocks New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a congenital condition called arthrogryposis that affects his joints.
10. “I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” December 15, 2015, answering a debate question about his priority in the “nuclear triad,” the three ways (air, land and sea) that nuclear missiles can be launched.
11. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families,” December 2, 2015, interview on “Fox & Friends.”
12 a. “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t renegotiate deals? Probably 99 percent of you. Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken in.”
12 b. “I’m a negotiator like you folks were negotiators.”
12 c. “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” December 3, 2015, speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition.
13. “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” December 7, 2015, reading from a statement by the Trump campaign.
14. “Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. Where the spirit of the Lord—right?—is, there is liberty!” February 18, 2016, speech at Liberty University, citing the book of the Bible that Christians call “Second Corinthians.”
15. “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.” February 1, 2016, rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
16. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. … For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” February 18, 2016. Press release from the Trump campaign.
17. “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.” February 28, 2016 on CNN, asked if he’ll disavow the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
18. “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” March 22, 2016, tweet from @realDonaldTrump.
19. “The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.” March 30, 2016, at an MSNBC town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, discussing what should happen to women who procure illegal abortions.
20. “It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them. So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea … Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes,” April 3, 2016, interview with Chris Wallace on Fox.
21. “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down. And I saw the greatest people I’ve ever seen in action.” April 18, 2016, speech in Buffalo, New York, misidentifying the 9/11 attacks.
22. “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.” May 3, 2016, interview with Fox News, repeating unsubstantiated allegations that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
23. “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” May 5, 2016, tweet by @realDonaldTrump.
24. “And rape.” May 19, 2016, Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, in which Trump alleges that Bill Clinton committed rape as well as other sexual offenses.
25. “The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. Frankly, he should recuse himself because he’s given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative. What happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine.” May 27, 2016, rally in San Diego, in which he criticizes Indiana-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who, on the basis of his Mexican ancestry, Trump alleges cannot judge fairly in a lawsuit related to Trump University.
26. “Look at my African American over here!” June 3, 2016, rally in Redding, California.
27. “Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!” June 24, 2016, tweet by @realDonaldTrump from Scotland.
28. “He was a bad guy—really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.” July 5, 2016.
29. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.” July 27, 2016, at news conference in Doral, Florida, encouraging Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
30. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.” July 30, 2016, interview with ABC News, referring to Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala, parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. At the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan criticized Trump for his anti-constitutional ban on Muslims.
31. “It’s against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying ‘This is ridiculous.’” July 30, 2016, in an interview with ABC about the presidential debate schedule. The NFL categorically denied sending such a letter.
32. “He’s not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, alright? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.” July 30, 2016, interview on ABC, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose 2014 annexation of Crimea proved that he was already in Ukraine.
33. “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case. I don’t think she would allow herself to be subjected to that.” August 1, 2016, interview in USA Today, discussing how he would expect his daughter Ivanka to handle sexual harassment in the workplace.
34. “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” August 2, 2016, at a rally in Ashburn, Virginia where a supporter presented him with a copy of a medal the veteran had been awarded in Iraq. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of U.S. military who are injured or killed while serving.
35. “If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” August 9, 2016, at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. Many read his remark as a suggestion that opponents of Clinton should take up arms against her if she’s elected president.
36. “ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.” August 10, 2016, interview on ABC News.
37. “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?” August 19, 2016, at a rally in Dimondale, Michigan, explaining why African Americans should vote for him.
Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer for Politico.
Taylor Gee is a researcher with Politico Magazine.