19 Famous Food Fails by American Politicians

Mitt Romney Flipping Hamburgers and Hotdogs

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U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene
U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Gastronomic Gaffes

Politicians know they're going to be picked apart every time they open their mouths, but that applies to more than speaking. Eating is also a minefield for anyone in public office, partially because certain foods are so symbolic of the places they're most famous. Here's a look back at some of the most notable political food failures over the years, from George Bush's war on broccoli to controversial Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene somehow mistaking soup for Nazi police. 

Related: The Favorite Foods of 21 U.S. Presidents

U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene
U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Marjorie Taylor Greene's Word Soup

It may not be the most popular soup around, but gazpacho, the refreshing Spanish dish made with summer tomatoes and cucumbers, certainly has little to do with Hitler's secret police. Georgia's polarizing representative mixed up "gestapo" and "gazpacho"


 while accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of using the U.S. Capitol Police as her own secret police. "We have Nancy Pelosi’s gazpacho police spying on members of Congress, spying on the legislative work we do, spying on our staff and spying on American citizens," she said recently on One America News. Talk about word soup. 

Related: 25 Strangest American Conspiracy Theories

North Carolina Senate Candidate Mark Walker Tweets from Waffle House...And Goes Viral

Mark Walker's Sad Waffle House Order

Republican North Carolina Senate candidate Mark Walker recently shared a picture of his Waffle House nosh session on Twitter, and went viral — not in a good way. While some observers might be appalled that Walker was wearing a suit and tie at Waffle House, most of the uproar centered on his bland meal: fried and scrambled eggs with no pepper in sight, hash browns sans ketchup, and white toast. More reason for snark: He was holding a pen, not a fork. Walker posted a second photo, but it only raised more questions. He was forced to address "Wafflegate," as it was dubbed, by returning to the scene of the crime — this time, in a more casual outfit, with a prominently featured bottle of hot sauce.

Elizabeth Warren Beer Incident
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Elizabeth Warren Drinks a Brewski

In early 2019, Elizabeth Warren made the fateful decision to drink a beer on an Instagram video filmed in her kitchen. Proclaiming "I'm gonna get me a beer," she grabbed a Michelob Ultra and took a swig, drawing immediate fire for insincerity and pandering. The Atlantic even subjected the entire episode to a think piece picking apart Warren's phrasing, concluding it was a no-win situation for the Vermont senator and presidential candidate: "If Warren harks back to her own upbringing in her language use, she gets called inauthentic, but if she purges her speech of any nonstandard idioms, she'd be seen as lacking a populist touch."

Related: Celebrities Who Gave to Political Causes and Candidates

Cynthia Nixon Bagel Incident
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Cynthia Nixon Fails Bagel 101

As if taking a fork to New York pizza wasn't warning enough, then-gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon defiled another local food favorite in 2018. She headed to Zabar's, pinnacle of Big Apple bagel shops, and ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel with — horror! — lox and capers. Gothamist reports being "bombarded by understandably aghast readers, who wondered how a lifelong New Yorker could possibly stomach such a disconcerting trinity." Of course, Nixon went on to lose big in the Democratic primary to incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

Related: The Best Bagel Shops Across America

Mitt Romney Flipping Hamburgers and Hotdogs
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Mitt Romney's Favorite Meat Is … Hot Dog?

Mitt Romney has had a long, accomplished political career, but he's never exactly connected with constituents as an "average Joe." During his Senate run in 2018, he prompted sneers and jeers for insisting that his "favorite meat is hot dog," followed closely by hamburger. Of course, the idea of wealthy Romney bypassing an expensive steak for a hot dog rang hollow for many observers. As one Twitter user joked: "The beta version of the 'populist' Romney OS upgrade is still kind of buggy."

Related: Think Outside the Bun: Creative Hot Dog Recipes

Donald Trump Eating Steak
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Trump Eats His Steak With Ketchup

President Donald Trump ventured out of the White House for a meal early in 2017, taking a short trip down Pennsylvania Avenue for dinner at his own hotel. There, he ordered a $54 bone-in strip steak well-done with ketchup, a meal that Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema said should have been "accompanied by a sippy cup." If you think that's a head-scratcher, Eater's take was even more brutal: "A person who won't eat his steak any doneness but well is a person who won't entertain the notion that there could be a better way; a person who blankets the whole thing in ketchup ... is always going to fix his problems by making them worse." Ouch.

Related: The Most Expensive Steaks You Can Order

Donald Trump Cinco de Mayo Incident
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Trump's Taco Bowl Tweet Falls Flat

When it's Cinco de Mayo and you're Donald Trump, there's only one thing to do: Order a taco bowl from your own restaurant, then tweet about it. The infamous taco-bowl tweet of 2016 was also accompanied by the caption, "I love Hispanics!" Critics blasted the message as "clueless, offensive, and self-promoting," but as history shows, it didn't stop Trump from being elected to the White House six months later. 

Related: Ways You Can Eat Like President Trump

Barack Obama Chipotle Incident
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Obama Disregards the Chipotle Sneeze Guard

President Barack Obama stopped into a D.C. Chipotle for a quick lunch in 2014. All well and good, except that he leaned (way, way) over the plastic sneeze guard to specify what he wanted on his burrito bowl. The gaffe, which probably seems a little less innocent during pandemic times, set off a media kerfuffle. Good Morning America breathlessly reported that his fingers were "within inches of the lunch items." Twitter, of course, also reacted with horror.

Related: The Biggest Fast Food Flops of All Time

Marco Rubio Holding Water Bottle
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Marco Rubio Is Really, Really Thirsty

It's good to stay hydrated … right? Marco Rubio's love of water became something of a meme during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Observers noted that the Florida senator could rarely get through a speech without pausing to quench his thirst, a quirk that really made a splash when he fumbled for a tiny water bottle during his State of the Union rebuttal in 2013. The moment was even skewered on "Saturday Night Live."

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump Eating Pizza with a Fork
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Sarah Palin and Donald Trump Eat Pizza With a Fork

Ask any New Yorker how to eat a slice of the city's famous pizza, and you'll get a TED talk that goes something like this: Grab it, fold it in half, shove it in your mouth, and keep walking. Donald Trump, then just starting to test the political waters, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were widely mocked for eating pizza with knives and forks during a meal stop in 2011 in Times Square. Despite the criticism, Palin and Trump apparently started a trend: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was maligned for eating his pizza with a fork in 2014, and so was Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016. 

Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Pizza Joints Across America

Barack Obama and Arugula Incident
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Obama Proclaims His Love for Arugula

Then a young senator from Illinois, Obama gave pundits some ammo in 2007, when he asked Iowa farmers if they'd been to Whole Foods (a store not found in the entire state) to see the outrageous price of arugula. Plenty of observers held up "arugula-gate" as an example that Obama was out of step with the meat-and-potatoes crowd. However, leafy greens had the last laugh when Obama won Iowa, and the White House, in 2008.

Related: Veggies and Plants You Can Grow for Free

John Kerry Cheesesteak Incident
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John Kerry Wants a Cheesesteak With Swiss

Philadelphia takes its cheesesteaks seriously, but John Kerry didn't get the memo before he stopped at Pat's King of Steaks in 2003, early in his presidential campaign. He ordered his cheesesteak with Swiss, raising more than a few eyebrows in an establishment where sandwiches are slathered in Cheez Whiz or provolone. It wasn't a good look for Kerry, who had been framed as an elitist Ivy Leaguer in contrast with down-home Bush. Of course, Kerry went on to lose in 2004 (though Philadelphia must not have been too mad, because he did win Pennsylvania).

Related: Iconic Restaurants to Try Before You Die

George Bush Pretzel Incident
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Dan Quayle Potato Spelling Incident
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Dan Quayle Misspells Potato(e)

During a 1992 visit to a New Jersey elementary school, Vice President Dan Quayle famously altered a student's spelling of the word "potato" by adding an "e." The school actually gave Quayle a card with the incorrect spelling, but no matter: Quayle had already been battling a perception that he wasn't exactly the smartest guy around, and his brush with spelling-bee infamy cemented it. 

Hillary Clinton Tea and Cookies Incident
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Hillary Clinton Won't Bake You Cookies

It was clear from the get-go that Hillary Clinton would be more than a deferential, perpetually smiling first lady. In 1992, in response to a critical comment regarding her law career, she responded, "I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies, and had teas." Though Bill Clinton would go on to win the White House, the remark was held up as an example of Hillary Clinton's supposed disdain for stay-at-home wives and mothers.

Related: How Presidents (and First Ladies) Changed the Look of the White House

George Bush Broccoli Incident
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George Bush Joins the Anti-Broccoli Lobby

In response to a report that he'd banned his least favorite vegetable from Air Force One, President George H.W. Bush doubled down. "I do not like broccoli," he told reporters in 1990. "And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." The story took on a life of its own, with farmers even sending a 10-ton shipment of the stuff directly to the White House. (Most of it ended up going to a local food bank.) 

Related: Crazy Facts About the White House

Gerald Ford and Tamales Incident
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Sargent Shriver and Courvoisier Incident
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Sargent Shriver Asks the Bartender to Pass the Courvoisier

McGovern's running mate also made his own food faux pas in 1972. While talking with voters at a bar in Youngstown, Ohio, the crowd shouted out for another round of their favorite beers (working-class domestic brews, of course). Shriver, however, called out, "Make mine a Courvoisier!" Whether he was making a self-deprecating joke or actually thirsting for the pricey French cognac, there was no saving McGovern and Shriver, who lost big to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew later that year. 

Related: Cheap Beers That Locals Love

George McGovern Hotdog Incident
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George McGovern's Not So Kosher Order

This South Dakota senator proved he had a little more to learn about life outside the Great Plains when he ordered a kosher hot dog with a glass of milk (whoops — meat with dairy is definitely not kosher) from a hot-dog stand in New York City in 1972. Aides also had to dissuade him from scheduling an important speech about Israel at a New York synagogue on a Friday evening, start of the Jewish Sabbath.

Related: Best Hot Dog Stands Across America