Donald Trump
Win McNamee / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images North America / Getty Images CC
Donald Trump
Win McNamee / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images North America / Getty Images CC

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The public spotlight can feel hot enough as it is, but it can get downright blistering when a live mic or a still-rolling camera catches politicians, celebrities, or other notable folks in an overly candid moment. Here are some of the most memorable gaffes that have resulted when people accidentally spoke their minds, from Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” to Prince Charles’ cringe-worthy photo op on the ski slopes.


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Mike Shirkey
Mike Shirkey by mihousegop (CC BY)

Mike Shirkey

Michigan’s Senate majority leader certainly isn’t the biggest name on this list, but his unfiltered moment is arguably one of the most notable in recent months. In February, he was caught saying that he didn’t take back his assertions that the Capitol riot was “a hoax,” remarks for which he had previously apologized. But that wasn’t all: A week earlier, he’d also said he’d wanted to fight Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the Statehouse lawn and had “spanked her hard” over the state budget.


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Thom Brennaman
Thom Brennaman by Brian Baute (CC BY)

Thom Brennaman

In August 2020, longtime baseball announcer Thom Brennaman uttered a homophobic slur while calling a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals, apparently thinking he was off the air at the time. He was pulled off the air for the second game of the doubleheader and suspended by the Reds, and despite an apology, ultimately resigned about a month later. 


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Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews by David Shankbone (CC BY)

Chris Matthews

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has never been shy about his opinions, and was caught ogling Melania Trump during live coverage of the Indiana primary in 2016. “Did you see her walk? Runway walk. My God is that good,” he said, forcing co-anchor Brian Williams to cut to a commercial break. Melania Trump was unimpressed, blasting Matthews in a statement that slammed “continuous inaccuracies and misrepresentations made by the media of Mrs. Trump as anything less than the independently successful woman that she is."

Donald Trump
Win McNamee / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images North America / Getty Images CC

Donald Trump

Unsavory as it was, Matthews’ hot-mic moment was far from the most prominent of the 2016 campaign. That honor, of course, goes to former President Donald Trump himself, who was revealed to have made lewd, profane comments about women during a 2005 conversation with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. Trump later dismissed the comments as “locker room banter,” but they became a major issue during the remainder of the campaign.


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Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber by Lou Stejskal (CC BY)

Justin Bieber

Appearing on the “Today Show” is hard, frustrating work. Or so it was for Justin Bieber, who in 2015 was caught on a hot mic complaining about a tight camera angle during a performance in Rockefeller Plaza. “The camera’s there the whole time, I might as well not even dance,” he said as the show went to commercial. “What do I even do this for?” he continued before the sound cut out.


Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama
Julien M. Hekimian/Getty

Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at important world meetings. Then-U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a private chat at the Group of 20 summit in November 2011 that was caught on open mics, according to media reports. “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar,” Sarkozy reportedly said of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “You’re tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day,” Obama replied. 


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Joe Biden
Drew Angerer/Getty

Joe Biden

During his first term as vice president, Biden was caught on a hot mic whispering to President Barack Obama that his health-care reform legislation “was a big f---ing deal” during a signing ceremony in March 2010. Biden, already known for occasional gaffes resulting from his candid nature, said he was embarrassed by the remarks, but nonetheless capitalized on them to sell T-shirts as part of a fundraiser for Democratic Party.


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Carly Fiorina
Larry French/Getty

Carly Fiorina

In politics, it seems like everything is fair game for comment, for better or worse. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina was caught mocking California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s hairstyle during a 2010 appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” snarking, “God, what is that? ... Sooo yesterday,” before realizing her mic was still on. Rather than apologizing directly to Boxer, Fiorina followed up with this: “I regret this whole situation. I gave people the opportunity to talk about something petty and superficial.”

California State Assembly
California State Assembly

Mike Duvall

This member of the California Assembly vaulted onto the national stage in July 2009, when he used a break during a committee meeting to regale a fellow lawmaker with a play-by-play of his extramarital affairs with two women, saying of one, “I’m getting into spanking her” and describing her underwear. He resigned a couple of months later, after the comments went viral thanks to a YouTube video.  


Obama
Jessica McGowan/Getty

Barack Obama

President Obama’s appraisal of Kanye West seems like unlikely headline fodder, but became just that in 2009, when supposedly off-the-record remarks during an interview with CNBC made their way onto YouTube. “He’s a jackass,” Obama said of the star’s behavior at the 2009 Video Music Awards, when West interrupted Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech to proclaim that Beyonce had been robbed. To Obama’s credit, he later doubled down, this time with full knowledge that he was on the record.

Christian Bale
Christian Bale by Harald Krichel (CC BY-SA)

Christian Bale

We’ve all heard tales of diva behavior on set, but it’s rare to get it on tape, in all of its glory. Christian Bale was caught on camera having an epic meltdown on the set of “Terminator Salvation,” which came out in 2009, berating the film’s cinematographer for accidentally walking onto the set. “I want you off the f---ing set, you p----," he screamed. “You are trashing my scene.” Bale did go on to apologize, saying he was still in character but “took it way too far.”

Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson by AFGE (CC BY)

Jesse Jackson

While Barack Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had some choice words for the young senator, indeed: “Barack’s been talking down to Black people … I want to cut his nuts off,” he said in remarks to a fellow Fox News guest captured on a hot mic during a break. Jackson immediately apologized, but that didn’t save him from being the subject of a blistering statement written by his own son, Jesse Jackson Jr., who was co-chair of the Obama campaign: “I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric,” it read. “He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.”

Kyra Phillips
Public Domain

Kyra Phillips

News anchors are no stranger to the occasional hot-mic moment, but CNN’s Kyra Phillips was caught having an entire 90-second conversation during a 2006 speech by President George W. Bush marking the first anniversary of deadly Hurricane Katrina. Phillips, who was taking a break while her mic was still on, was heard praising her husband as “a really passionate, compassionate, great, great human being” before she talks about being protective of her brother, whose wife is “just a control freak” — all while the president continued to speak. CNN apologized to both Bush and viewers, citing “audio difficulties.”


Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac by European Communities (CC BY)

Jacques Chirac

France and Britain have long had something of a low-key rivalry, but on the world stage, they’re allies. Still, that didn’t stop French President Jacques Chirac from revealing his true feelings to Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during a 2005 meeting. “The only thing (the English) have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow,” journalists overheard him saying. “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that … After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.” 

Prince Charles
Prince Charles by Palácio do Planalto (CC BY)

Prince Charles

Ever wanted to live the life of a royal? Prince Charles, for one, painted a pretty unappealing picture when he was posing for photographs with sons William and Harry during a ski trip in Switzerland ahead of his 2005 wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles. “I hate doing this,” he was recorded muttering. “Bloody people.” He went on to call a BBC correspondent “so awful,” and was later beseeched by Prince William to “keep smiling, keep smiling.”

George H.W. Bush
Cynthia Johnson/Getty

George W. Bush

There’s generally very little love lost between politicians and members of the media, and George W. Bush made that abundantly clear when he was caught on video calling a New York Times reporter, Adam Clymer, “a major-league a--hole” in an aside to his running mate, Dick Cheney, during a 2000 campaign appearance. Bush passed on the chance to apologize, but did make it up to Clymer by later calling him a “major-league asset” at an annual press corps dinner.  


Kathleen Gingrich
C-Span

Kathleen Gingrich

Newt Gingrich’s mother, Kathleen, learned the hard way that when a news anchor beseeches you to say something “just between you and me,” it may mean nothing of the sort. The cameras were still rolling when Gingrich whispered to Connie Chung during a 1995 interview that her son had said Hillary Clinton “a b----.” Chung was widely criticized for the interview, which was parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” and left CBS several months later. 


Nancy Kerrigan
Nancy Kerrigan by gianluca (CC BY-SA)

Nancy Kerrigan

After the unforgettable Tonya Harding scandal, figure skater Kerrigan became America’s sweetheart, especially after her silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics. But she wasn’t quite so sweet around hot mics. First, she complained about Oksana Baiul, who won the gold, for taking too long for a makeup touchup before the medal ceremony, saying, “Oh, come on. She's going to get up there and cry again. What's the difference?" After that, she made her disdain for a post-Olympics appearance at Disney World abundantly clear, snarking that a parade appearance with Mickey Mouse was “so corny … so dumb.” 


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Bill O’Reilly
Bill O’Reilly by World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (CC BY)

Bill O’Reilly

Hell hath no fury like an angry Bill O’Reilly, who was caught on camera erupting at his staff during an early ’90s episode of “Inside Edition.” The cause of the meltdown? Teleprompter issues. “F--- it! We’ll do it live!” he screamed between takes. “F---ing thing sucks!” A camera also caught O’Reilly throwing a pen, ripping off his jacket, and storming off set when he was finished. 

Ronald Reagan
Public Domain

Ronald Reagan

In 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was preparing for a weekly broadcast at his California ranch, radio staffers asked him for a mic check. Reagan gave them that and much, much more, saying, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” The joke was leaked to the press, prompting plenty of anger from the Soviets, who declared it “an unprecedented and hostile attack.”