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A potty-mouth history of presidential profanity --- and one cursing White House parrot

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. The Washington Post

Published Jan. 15, 2018

A potty-mouth history of presidential profanity --- and one cursing White House parrot
Being president is so stressful, one study says, it can actually take years off a person's life. The role of commander in chief has been called "the world's hardest job," one so well-known for turning men's hair gray that the phenomenon even has a name: "the White House effect."

So it probably comes as no surprise that the revered leaders of the free world have let a few four-letter words fly at work.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump managed single-handedly to anger people on at least three continents with his comments about immigrants from "s---hole countries," remarks that U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville called "racist."

The president joins a long line of men whose filthy and occasionally extremely creative use of the more vulgar parts of the English language would make Mitt Romney blush.

What separates Trump and other modern presidents from their oil-painted predecessors is the near ubiquity of recording devices, social media and a 21st-century public that parses a president's every utterance in real time.

But if we're really honest, do we think Abraham Lincoln talked about consecrated and hallowed ground all the time? Or that the worst thing Franklin D. Roosevelt said about Adolf Hitler was that he was a "very mean dictator"?

John F. Kennedy's soaring eloquence helped the country make strides on school desegregation and inspired an army of youths to help people in underdeveloped nations. But he was also a sailor.

Even our most revered leaders have had the occasional (or in Lyndon B. Johnson's case, routine) slip of the tongue.

Some examples:

(Warning: The following utterances of presidents, and a parrot, contain offensive language)

Abraham Lincoln

On several occasions, Lincoln told a story about Revolutionary War patriot Ethan Allen's first trip to England after the war:

The British, trying to poke fun at the American, had put a picture of George Washington in the outhouse of the home where Allen was saying.

One day Allen's hosts asked whether he had seen the portrait of the first president.

According to Lincoln, Allen replied:

"There is nothing to make an Englishman sh-t quicker than the sight of General George Washington."

Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ was a particularly creative curser. Rolling Stone said his language was "salted with profanity" and that "few if any presidents have been quite as coarse as Johnson."

Fun Johnson fact, according to the magazine: He often spoke with cabinet members while sitting on the toilet with the door open.

Johnson was once asked why he didn't take one of Richard Nixon's speeches more seriously when he was Senate majority leader and Nixon was vice president.

LBJ responded:

"Boys, I may not know much, but I do know the difference between chicken sh-t and chicken salad."

Harry Truman

According to CNN, Harry Truman once told Time Magazine why, exactly, he fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur:

"I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a b---h, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail."

Andrew Jackson's parrot

Andrew Jackson once bought an African gray parrot named Poll for his wife, according to the Tennessean. But when the first lady died, the parrot spent a lot of time with Old Hickory and apparently soaked up some of the president's choice phrases.

When Jackson died in 1845, thousands of people gathered to pay a final tribute --- along with one talking parrot that was apparently riled up by the crowds.

The Rev. William Menefee Morment, who presided over the funeral, described the scene:

"Before the sermon and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people," he said.

The bird "let loose perfect gusts of 'cuss words,' " so many that people were "horrified and awed at the bird's lack of reverence."

In the end, the bird refused to shut up and "had to be carried from the house."

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