The war of words is heating up between North Korea and the United States. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un called U.S. President Donald Trump “a dotard” and a “frightened dog” after Trump threatened his country during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Trump responded the next morning by calling Kim a “madman” and said he would test him “like never before.” That in turn caused Russian spokesman Sergei Lavrov to call the leaders “hotheads” who needed to “calm down.” Then on Monday, North Korea’s foreign minister told reporters that Trump’s language amounted to a declaration of war. (The White House press secretary disputed that characterization.)
Still, these insults pale in comparison to critiques hurled by British politician Andrew Faulds who called Shadow Foreign Secretary John Davies a “fat-arsed twit,” or Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who called President Barack Obama a “poor ignoramus.” That’s just the tip of the delightful iceberg of diplomatic insults, though. Here are some of the greatest political insults of all time:
- “[He’s the] son of 60,000 whores.” –Syrian defense minister General Mustafa Tlass on Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat
- “The orange prince of American self-publicity.” –Marcus Fysh, Conservative British MP, about Donald Trump
- “You have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk.” –European Parliamentarian Nigel Farage to European Council President Herman van Rompuy
- “He’s an angry, evil, and embittered little bishop.” –Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe about South Africa’s former archbishop Desmond Tutu
- “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” –British foreign minister Boris Johnson on Hillary Clinton, in a 2007 Daily Telegraph column.
- “He would make a drum out of the skin of his own mother in order to sound his own praises.” —Lloyd George on his political rival Winston Churchill
- “You are a donkey, Mr. Danger.” –Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to George W. Bush
- “He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” –Texas governor Ann Richards on George H. W. Bush
- “He’s a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”–Australian prime minister Paul Keating on rival John Howard
- “A slur upon the moral government of the world.” —John Quincy Adams on Thomas Jefferson
- “People might cite George Bush as proof that you can be totally impervious to the effects of Harvard and Yale education.” –Rep. Barney Frank said in 2005.
- “A complete mug.” –British prime minister David Cameron on Labour leader Ed Miliband
- “She behaves with all the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa constrictor.” –British politician Tony Banks on Margaret Thatcher
- “A real centaur: part man, part horse’s ass!” –former Secretary of State Dean Acheson on Lyndon Johnson
- “Like some hybrid of Richard Nixon and Cersei Lannister.” –Shadow Education Secretary Emily Thornberry on Prime Minister Theresa May
- “He’s a nice guy, but he played too much football with his helmet off.” —Lyndon Johnson said of Gerald Ford
- “A mutton-headed old mugwump.” –Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
- “Woolly-hatted, muesli-eating, Tory lick-spittles.” –British politician Tony Banks on liberal democrats
- “He has not one single redeeming defect.” –British politician Benjamin Disraeli on Prime Minister William Gladstone
- “A bastard brat of a Scotch peddler.” —John Adams on Alexander Hamilton
- “He has the backbone of a chocolate éclair.” –Theodore Roosevelt on President William McKinley
- “She probably thinks Sinai is the plural of sinus.” –Parliamentarian Jonathan Aitken on Margaret Thatcher
- “Puppy dog of the empire.” –Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Mexican president Vicente Fox
- “Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!” –John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, to political activist John Wilkes. (Wilkes replied, “That, sir, depends on whether I first embrace your Lordship’s principles or your Lordship’s mistresses.”)
- “If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune. If anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity.” –former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli on former British prime minister William Gladstone
- “The honorable Member is living proof that a pig’s bladder on a stick can be elected to Parliament.” –Labor Member of Parliament Tony Banks on Tory MP Terry Dicks
- “[He’s] a cross-eyed Texan warmonger.” —Boris Johnson on George W. Bush
- “In a recent fire Bob Dole’s library burned down. Both books were lost. And he hadn’t even finished coloring one of them.” –Republican Congressman Jack Kemp
- “Mr Trump is so stupid, my god!” –Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo
- “Fuck you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage . . . shut up all of you.” –Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte to the United Nations
- “If somebody wants to make a joke about the love that blossoms between the Turkish president and a goat, they should be able to do so, in any European country, including Turkey.” –Boris Johnson, in rebuff to President Recep Tayep Erdogan’s efforts to prosecute a German comedian for an offensive poem directed against him. (Johnson also offered a verse: “There was a young fellow from Ankara, / Who was a terrific wankerer. / Till he sowed his wild oats, / With the help of a goat, / But he didn’t even stop to thankera.” He won a £1,000 prize for the poem.)
- “You’re a . . . a shit in a silk stocking.” –Napoleon to the face of his peace-seeking chief diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, following Napoleon’s controversial campaign in Spain in 1809
- “Son of a whore” –Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte to President Obama
- “[Britain is] just a small island . . . no one pays any attention to them.” –Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the G20 summit
- “The only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.” –Boris Johnson (again) in 2015, when he was mayor of London. He has since changed his tune on Trump.
- “He changes opinions like the rest of us change underwear.” –Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen on Donald Trump
None of these compare though to Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky who wanted to take back Alaska, suggested killing all migratory birds to stop bird flu, called the Royal Baby a “bloodsucker,” and let loose with a string of insults that would make Johnson or Duterte blush.
Then again, none of these insults were hurled within the seemingly very real context of nuclear war.
Christopher R. Hill, a former ambassador to South Korea who served presidents of both parties, told the New York Times that Trump’s insults could undercut his ability to find a peaceful solution to the dispute, playing into Kim’s characterization of the U.S. as an evil nation bent on the country’s destruction. Hill–who was the last American to hold formal talks with the government in Pyongyang, under George W. Bush–said he and Condoleezza Rice, then the secretary of state, regularly advised President Bush to “avoid the personal invectives,” because “they never help,” he said. “My sense from four years of those talks is that getting personal is not helpful.”