Disaster Gaffes

As his countrymen sorted through the rubble after Monday’s earthquake, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared that they should treat their newfound homelessness like “a weekend of camping.” The Daily Beast remembers some of the great insensitive moments of crisis response through the years.

Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

ROUGHING IT

“They have medicaments. They have hot food. They have shelter for the night. Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping."— Silvio Berlusconi, on the 17,000 Italians left homeless by Monday’s earthquake

Scott Olson / Getty Images

WELCOME TO TEXAS

“So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this—this [chuckles] is working very well for them.”— Barbara Bush, suggesting Hurricane Katrina refugees would enjoy living in the Houston Astrodome, 2005

Douglas Healey / AP Photo

TRICKLE DOWN DEPRESSION

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline. You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession.”—former Sen. Phil Gramm, then a John McCain adviser, on the flagging economy, 2008

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

NO

“Now, tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?”— Tom DeLay, to a group of evacuees after Hurricane Katrina, 2005

WE HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT

"I think you will see a great deal more restraint and a better-policed code of ethics [in pursuing paparazzi photos]. … It would be a major cost-saving if we can see this through."— Rupert Murdoch, shortly after Princess Diana died in a chase with paparazzi photographers

Dave Hogan / Getty Images

KARMA

"Then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma? When you’re not nice, that the bad things happen to you?"— Sharon Stone, after the Chinese earthquake, 2008

Bruce Weaver / AP Photo

THE PRICE OF DISASTER

"This shuttle thing will cost us ten cents a share this year." — Charles Locke, CEO of the aerospace company Morton-Thiokol, the maker of the faulty rocket boosters on the Space Shuttle Challenger, 1986

Larry Marano / Retna

THE LAST WORD

“Stuff happens.”— Donald Rumsfeld, on the looting that followed the American invasion of Iraq, 2003