Undignified Dignitaries Ahmadinejad, Gaddafi & More Infamous Speakers at the U.N. (PHOTOS)
Chávez insults Dubya. Khrushchev wields a shoe. Castro harbors live chickens. Ahead of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s sure-to-be fiery speech Wednesday, a look at the wildest moments to come out of past United Nations assemblies.
Clockwise from top left: Getty Images (2); AP Photo (2)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is
scheduled to speak Wednesday before the U.N. General Assembly, and he already seems to be warming up for some fiery remarks. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad called for a new world order that will do away with what he says is American bullying over international affairs. On Monday he said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated.” As pundits brace themselves for what the leader has in store for his remarks Wednesday, here’s a look back at some of the most incendiary—and most colorful—moments from world leaders at past United Nations events. Fidel Castro Runs Fowl
Fidel Castro’s 1960 trip to New York City was one to remember—for all the wrong reasons. With relations between the U.S. and Cuba worsening, the ruthless Cuban leader chose to hole up in a Harlem hotel, where he spent the week playing host to an array of visitors, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, and live chickens. In his controversial debut U.N. speech, the longest on record at the time, he spent an arduous four hours bashing America for its “imperialism” and insulting an “illiterate and ignorant” John F. Kennedy. Castro’s audacious address and bizarre behavior confounded America, leaving behind a trail of resentment and a hotel room full of chicken feathers.
Nikita Khrushchev’s Foot Fight
It was the shoe-banging heard around the world. In 1960, after a Philippine delegate boldly claimed Eastern Europe had been “swallowed up by the Soviet Union,” an offended Nikita Khrushchev
removed his shoe—a brown loafer, by most accounts—and began violently thumping it on the table. Although no video or photographic evidence of the incident exists, a fake image with a superimposed shoe has helped to make the story famous. Tour guides at the U.N. contend that—to this day—the most common visitor question remains “where was Khrushchev sitting when he banged his shoe?”
Yasser Arafat’s Mixed Reviews
The first non-state leader invited to speak before the U.N. General Assembly, Yasser Arafat made sure he would be the last—donning an eerie black-and-white military uniform and holster (sans gun, which was removed upon entry) for his 1974 address. “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun,” the enigmatic ruler of the Palestine Liberation Organization announced. “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” Although his speech was seen as a victory by the PLO, its brutal attack of Zionism as “racist” was later deemed extremely offensive.
Stephen Chernin / Getty Images Hugo Chávez Insults Dubya
In 2006 the melodramatic Venezuelan president got his moment in the sun. Holding a copy Noam Chomsky’s
Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, Chávez delivered a fiery 15-minute speech that helped him win even more enemies. “The devil came here yesterday,” he said, referring to counterpart George W. Bush, who had addressed the U.N. the day before, ”and it smells of sulfur still today.” Chávez alluded to his speech three years later at the U.N., saying that it “no longer smells of sulfur” now that Barack Obama is in office.
Mario Tama / Getty Images Muammar Gaddafi Rants On (and On)
A speech 40 years in the making had better be good—and Gaddafi did not disappoint.
Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly for the first time in 2009—after four decades of ruling Libya—the ruthless despot delivered an almost 100-minute rant to bewildered dignitaries. Dressed in a typical Libyan robe, the “the king of kings of Africa” rambled incessantly while holding pages of handwritten notes—at one point insinuating that the H1N1 virus was a U.S. military conspiracy, at another suggesting the Security Council be renamed the “terror council.” Although he was provided housing at Libya’s U.N. Mission, Gaddafi reportedly ordered a tent be drawn up on land owned by Donald Trump in a New York suburb, but construction was apparently stopped due to lack of permits.
Gerard Fouet, AFP / Getty Images Yeltsin and Clinton, Giggle Monsters
The U.N. building in New York may be the epicenter of fiery dialogue, but some of the best speeches happen outside the complex. Case in point: Russian President Boris Yeltsin and President Clinton's
giggle fest while meeting the press after a summit meeting in Hyde Park, N.Y., to mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Yeltsin had apparently imbibed a bit too much during lunch, topping off a bottle of wine and chasing it with some cognac, and during his press remarks he attempted to chide the media for predicting that his summit with Clinton would be a disaster. “No, for the first time, I can tell you that you’re a disaster,” he said, doing his best Uncle Sam and pointing directly at the camera. After a painfully awkward pause, Clinton erupted in a giggle fit, which proved contagious when Yeltsin joined in.
One Scary Welcome Wagon
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe did not mince words in his tirade against the U.S. and Britain at the 2004 U.N. summit. Addressing the allies’ invasion of Iraq,
Mugabe said, "We are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that there is but one political God, George W Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet.” Considering his harsh words for two of the U.N.’s most powerful delegations, his status on “worst dictators” list compiled by Forbes and Parade, and the laundry list of human-rights violations he’s been accused, it was a shock when the U.N. named him in March as the organization’s tourism leader. He may be one of the world’s worst dictators, but but he must pack one helluva welcome basket. After all, nothing says “bienvenido!” like a tyrannical despot accused of ruling his country in a “ reign of terror,” after all. Human-rights groups across the globe protested the pick of Mugabe as head of the U.N. World Tourism Organization, which will require that he co-host the UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013. Christopher Vail, AFP / Getty Images Daniel Ortega Goes Rambo
In 1987, Ronald Reagan was president, U.S. money was backing the Contra rebellion against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinistas … and Sylvester Stallone was immensely popular. The three facts converged for one
spectacularly awkward moment during Ortega’s controversial U.N. speech that year warning Reagan to back off: “Before consulting the hotheads who present various military options such as a military invasion: remember, President Reagan, Rambo only exists in the movies.” Ortega continued to assail the U.S. delegation, accusing Washington of supporting rebels who “bled the Nicaraguan people dry.” The delegation, in response, hightailed it out of there. “The people of Nicaragua may have to sit and listen to [Ortega],” said then-U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters, “but I don’t.”