Presidential Heckles Through the Years

Joe Wilson, the latest in a long line of Presidential hecklersWhen  Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out “you lie” during President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress many were shocked at the breach of protocol.  What many do not know is that heckling of the President is a long and time-honored American tradition dating back to George Washington.

In fact heckling predates the Presidency.  Ben Franklin, after telling a citizen in Philadelphia that they have given them a “Republic if you can keep it” was heckled with “You suck…’s the V.D.?”   A visibly upset Franklin told an associate “What do you expect.  It’s Philadelphia.  I bet they’d even boo Santa Claus.”

The first recorded Presidential heckle occurred during Washington’s first inaugural  address.  When Washington started his address with “Among the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month…”  he was greeted with the shout of “I slept with Martha” from an anonymous citizen.

When Thomas Jefferson was delivering his inaugural address and stated that “We are all Republicans; We are all Federalists”  a man in the crowd, presumably a Federalist, shouted “Yeah, well at least Federalists don’t sleep with our slaves!”

Abraham Lincoln, giving his famous Gettysburg Address was stopped cold by a soldier watching his speech who shouted out “Honest Abe?  I don’t think so.  How can a politician from Illinois be honest?” Lincoln was reportedly so incensed by this that he challenged the heckler to a fight and beat him unconscious with his stovepipe top hat.

Teddy Roosevelt while campaigning for President in 1912  was repeatedly heckled by a man who made a pun on Roosevelt’s association with the Rough Riders.

“What are you?  A condom?” the heckler taunted him before shooting him.

When Franklin Roosevelt said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” the first recorded “mass heckle” was born as hundreds in the crowd shouted “You’ve never met my mother-in-law.”

Perhaps the most famous Presidential heckle occurred during the Monica Lewinsky scandal when President Clinton declared that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

“Did she at least inhale?” responded a heckler.

And so it seems that heckling the President appears to be an American institution.  An institution that will continue for a long time.


1 Comment

One Response

  1. Dr. Dave says:

    Funny stuff, man. Funny stuff.

    Thank you. Much appreciated – The Manhattan Infidel

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