Boris Johnson, Britain’s New Foreign Secretary, Was Anything but Diplomatic. (Photo: YouTube)

Boris Johnson, Britain’s new foreign secretary, has a quality unusual for a nation’s top diplomat: He can be spectacularly undiplomatic.

Mr. Johnson has suggested that President Obama had an “ancestral dislike of the British Empire,” written a poem insinuating that Turkey’s president had sexual relations with a goat, and likened the European Union — which he helped lead the campaign for Britain to leave — to Hitler’s Third Reich.


And that was only this spring.

In December, he compared Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Dobby the House Elf, a “Harry Potter” character. In 2007, he wrote that Hillary Clinton looked like “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” In 2002, he referred to Africans as “flag-waving pickaninnies.”

So it was with no little shock that the world reacted to the news Wednesday evening that Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, had named Mr. Johnson to lead the rarefied Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which employs 14,000 people in nearly 270 diplomatic offices and works with the secret intelligence service MI6.

Informed of the appointment, the State Department’s spokesman struggled to keep a straight face. The French foreign minister told a radio station that Mr. Johnson had “lied a lot to the British people” while campaigning for Britain’s exit from the European Union. Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden, lamented on Twitter: “I wish it was a joke, but I fear it isn’t.”

Putting Mr. Johnson — whose aspirations for prime minister were dashed by the betrayal of an erstwhile ally, Michael Gove — at the helm of the foreign office may have been an astute move by Ms. May. He will frequently be out of the country. He will have limited say over trade and withdrawal from the European Union, tasks Ms. May gave to other proponents of a “Brexit.” And perhaps, at least in his public style, he’ll have to grow up a little.

His defenders argue that for all of his verbal daggers, Mr. Johnson is at heart a liberal internationalist. He was born in New York City, grew up partly in Brussels, speaks French and Russian, and sprinkles his sentences with Latin phrases. He is a polymath who studied at Eton and Oxford, and was a prolific journalist and author who wrote a well-regarded book on his hero Winston Churchill.
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As London’s mayor — from 2008 until May of this year — Mr. Johnson proved to be both popular and canny, presiding over a successful Olympic Games in 2012, improving public transportation (the city’s shared-cycling program is still informally known as “Boris Bikes”) and traveling the world to raise the city’s profile as a capital of commerce and finance.

Here, however, are some of Mr. Johnson’s memorable utterances that may shadow him in his new role as Britain’s top diplomat.

He called President Obama part-Kenyan

When Mr. Obama urged Britons in April to remain in the European Union, Mr. Johnson was not amused. In a column in The Sun, he mentioned a theory, prominent in the American far-right, that Mr. Obama was motivated by a radical anti-imperialist agenda and that “the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire” had motivated the removal of a bust of Mr. Churchill from the White House. (Mr. Obama, a native of Hawaii, had limited contact with his Kenyan father. There is no evidence that the bust, a loan from the British government, was removed for political reasons. Another Churchill bust remains in the White House.)

Asked on Wednesday evening if he planned to apologize to Mr. Obama, Mr. Johnson replied: “The United States of America will be at the front of the queue.” (That might have been a nod to Mr. Obama’s warning that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” in trade negotiations with the United States, if Britons voted to leave the European Union.)

He has insulted Hillary Clinton

As a columnist for The Telegraph — a job for which he has reportedly been paid 275,000 pounds, or about $365,000, a year — Mr. Johnson wrote of Mrs. Clinton in 2007, when she was running for president: “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” He concluded, however, that she should become president, “not because we necessarily want her for herself, but because we want Bill in the role of first husband. And if Bill can deal with Hillary, he can surely deal with any global crisis.” (Mr. Johnson later apologized.)

He called Donald Trump crazy

Asked about a proposal by Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to bar Muslims from entering the United States, Mr. Johnson responded that Mr. Trump was “clearly out of his mind.”

As to Mr. Trump’s suggestion that parts of London were so overrun with radicalized Muslims that they were no-go areas for police officers, Mr. Johnson retorted that Mr. Trump had displayed “stupefying ignorance” that made him unfit to be president. He said he would welcome Mr. Trump to London to show him the city, “except that I wouldn’t want to expose Londoners to any unnecessary risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
He compared the European Union to Nazi Germany

In May, Mr. Johnson told The Sunday Telegraph that European history had been marked by ill-fated attempts to unify the Continent, in efforts to recreate the “golden age” of the Roman Empire. “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” he said. “The E.U. is an attempt to do this by different methods.”

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said Mr. Johnson had “crossed the boundaries of rational discourse.” But Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative lawmaker, defended the remarks as “absolutely true.” While Hitler and Napoleon wanted to create a single European power through violence, he said, “the E.U. is trying to do it by stealth.”
He implied that Turkey’s president had sexual relations with a goat

In May, Mr. Johnson won first prize in a competition by the conservative magazine The Spectator to write the best poem insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has moved Turkey in an authoritarian direction and who asked Germany to prosecute a German comedian who had mocked him.

Mr. Johnson’s tongue-in-cheek poem, for which he was awarded £1,000, was widely circulated on Twitter:

“There was a young fellow from Ankara

Who was a terrific wankerer

Till he sowed his wild oats

With the help of a goat

But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”


He has offended Commonwealth nations

Mr. Johnson has offended people from central Africa to Southeast Asia (not to mention Liverpool, England). He will have to work with a number of African and Asian nations in his new portfolio, which includes handling Commonwealth affairs. 

Boris-Johnson-qoute-1    Boris-Johnson-qoute-2


In 2002, criticizing a trip by Tony Blair, then prime minister, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Johnson wrote: “It is said that the queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving pickaninnies.” He added: “No doubt the AK-47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.” (He later apologized.)

In 2006, describing his own party, Mr. Johnson wrote: “For 10 years, we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing,” stunning leaders of the Pacific nation, which is part of the Commonwealth. He apologized, but only halfheartedly.

He knocked over a Japanese boy

No one can accuse Mr. Johnson of lacking competitive spirit. In October, during a trade mission to Japan, Mr. Johnson was invited to take part in a friendly game of rugby. He may have been overly enthusiastic. He knocked to the ground his rival: a 10-year-old pupil, Toki Sekiguchi. “I’m so sorry,” he told the boy, asking, “Are you O.K.?”

Mr. Johnson later used the episode to talk about the importance of confidence. “We have just played a game of street rugby with a bunch of kids, and I accidentally flattened a 10-year-old, on TV unfortunately,” The Guardian quoted him as saying. “But he bounced back, he put it behind him, the smile returned rapidly to his face.”

Warming to his own spin, Mr. Johnson added that his theme that night was “the possibility that confidence can suddenly and unexpectedly return.”


Source: NYtimes - By Dan Bilefsky



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