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‘Hot mic’ moments: six times world leaders have got into trouble

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‘Two-faced’ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is latest to be caught out

In Depth James Ashford
Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 1:12pm

Donald Trump has accused Justin Trudeau of being “two-faced” after the Canadian prime minister was caught on camera mocking the US president with other world leaders.

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Leaked footage from a Nato summit reception at Buckingham Palace this week shows Boris Johnson jokingly asking French President Emmanuel Macron why he was late. Trudeau responds that “he was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top” - an apparent reference to the US leader, who is known for his long, rambling addresses to the press.

Macron then appears to tell an anecdote, which isn’t picked up on the microphone. An amused Trudeau replies: “Oh yeah, yeah, he announced... [inaudible]. You just watched his team’s jaw drop to the floor!”

Trump later suffered his own “hot mic” moment when he was recorded crowing over his Trudeau jibe after cancelling his final press conference at the London summit to fly home early. 

Multiple reporters in the English capital claim to have heard the US leader say: “That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced.”

Here are four other occasions when politicians got caught out.

Bigoted woman
Video of Brown overhead calling voter 'bigoted'


Gordon Brown was doing a live TV interview in Rochdale in 2010 when he was heckled by a woman later identified as Gillian Duffy, who challenged the then-prime minister on immigration.

After Brown agreed to speak to her, she asked: “You can’t say anything about the immigrants, because you’re saying you’re... but all these eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?”

But following their exchange, the Labour leader returned his car without realising he was still wearing a live Sky News microphone, and was heard saying: “That was a disaster.”

Asked what Duffy had said, he replied: “Ugh, everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”

Brown later returned to the Greater Manchester town to apologise to Duffy in person.

Locker room talk
Video of Donald Trump Makes Lewd Remarks About Women On Video | NBC News


Donald Trump was famously caught making vulgar comments about women while filming segments for US show Access Hollywood in 2005.

Talking to presenter Billy Bush on a bus, Trump - then host of the US version of The Apprentice - is heard saying: “Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her.

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."

A laughing Bush then says: “Whatever you want.”

Trump replies: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

The Washington Post later obtained the video footage and published details of the conversation a month before the 2016 presidential election.

Following a backlash, the then-presidential candidate issued a public apology of sorts, saying: “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise.”

The rest is history.

Start bombing
Video of Reagan's Joke Lead To Red Alert | Flashback | NBC News

In 1984, at the height of the Cold War between Russia and the West, then US president Ronald Reagan was caught joking with sound technicians ahead of his weekly radio address to the nation.

“My fellow Americans,” Reagan said. “I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

The USSR was not amused, and Soviet forces were temporarily put on high alert in the Far East.

Obama and Sarkozy’s Israel row

A 2011 conversation between Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama, the respective leaders of France and the US at the time, caused the pair considerable embarrassment after being overheard by journalists and reported across the world. 

The journalists had been handed translation boxes to listen to Sarkozy and Obama at a G20 summit in France, but were told not to plug in the devices until the backroom chat had finished.

However, reporters being reporters, a number of them failed to wait - and caught the presidents bemoaning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I can’t stand him any more, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy was heard saying.

“You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day,” replies Obama.

The exchange highlighted “a breakdown of trust with the Israeli leader” that threatened the Middle East peace process, as the BBC noted at the time.

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