Presidents Talking Trash: Top 10 POTUS Insults

Very Free Speech, from Thomas Jefferson to Lyndon Johnson

If you think the vitriol in the current presidential campaign has reached an all-time low, well, then you don’t know the previous presidents.

We meet them all the time on our team building scavenger hunts, particularly at the National Portrait Gallery* in Washington, D.C. Here are a few of the choice words U.S. presidents have historically had for each other.

Harsh Words

  • Teddy Roosevelt on President William McKinley: “No more backbone than a chocolate éclair.”
  • Perhaps T.R. was inspired by Ulysses S. Grant’s comment on James A. Garfield: “[He] is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm.”
  • Lyndon Johnson on Gerald Ford: “Jerry Ford is so dumb that he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”
  • Woodrow Wilson on Warren G. Harding: “He has a bungalow mind.”
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, when asked if his veep, Richard Nixon, had contributed any major ideas to Ike’s presidency: “If you give me a week, I might think of one.”
  • Herbert Hoover on Franklin D. Roosevelt: “[A] chameleon on plaid.”
  • Calvin Coolidge on Herbert Hoover: “That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad.”
  • Thomas Jefferson on John Adams: “A blind, bald, crippled, toothless man who is a hideous hermaphroditic character with neither the force and fitness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
  • John’s son John Quincy Adams on Thomas Jefferson: “A slur upon the moral government of the world.”
  • And one more from the saltiest president, LBJ, on Nixon: “I may not know much, but I know chicken sh*t from chicken salad.”

*The museum and its “America’s Presidents” are filled with fascinating facts that we’ve incorporated into our team building scavenger hunts there. For example, we learned that Benjamin Harrison was nicknamed The Human Iceberg, that Congress refused to pay for the official portrait of James Buchanan, and that after Buchanan lived for 15 years with a senator, Andrew Jackson dubbed them “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.” We dub Andrew Jackson “Jerk.”