Inevitably, most political speeches will include some attempt at humor. Inevitably, some of those attempts will fall flat.
But some jokes at this year’s CPAC went beyond routine flops into full-blown “What were they thinking?” territory. Here are six of the most cringe-worthy, offensive, and just plain bizarre “jokes” uttered on the CPAC stage:
1) Sean Hannity can see into your uterus.
During a riff about how liberals are “stupid” and blame Bush for their mistakes, FOX News host Sean Hannity turned on a dime and suddenly praised the “young” and “good-looking” crowd at CPAC. Then things got really weird:
“I can look out in the crowd, I kind of have X-ray FOX vision—and I can see some of you women, you don’t even know it yet, but you’re pregnant,” Hannity said. The confused crowd alternately gasped, laughed, and jeered.
“It’s not your fault, it’s not his fault. Whose fault is it?” Hannity continued.
“Bush!” part of the crowd said, starting to sort of get what he was going for.
“Nooo!” said Hannity. Then he busted out an awkward Bill Clinton impression: “I can’t blame Bush for that one!”
The Clinton impression reared its painful head again just a few minutes later during Hannity’s word-association “lightning round.” After asking Cruz the first word to pop into his head relating to Hillary Clinton, Hannity moved on to Bill and was unable to stop himself from immediately crooning, “I want to say hi to that really hot chick in row seven back there. How you doing sweetheart, I’ll give you a tour backstage.”
Truly fulfilling CPAC’s promise to push presidential contenders to talk about policy specifics.
2) Old-news conspiracy theories for the lulz.
Rick Santorum already had it tough going on right after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Most of the under-25 crowd immediately streamed out of the auditorium after Paul finished speaking. But even an audience full of millennials probably couldn’t have lifted Santorum’s lead balloon of a “birther” joke about how Obama had become so unpopular around the world that “the Kenyan government is actually developing proof that Barack Obama was actually born in America.”
3) Why you should always just wait for the question.
During a Q&A following Ted Cruz’s speech, Sean Hannity said, “I want to warn everybody, I am asking this next question because i know the liberal media will, so I might as well get it out of the way for them.”
Then Cruz interjected: “No, I have not stopped beating my wife.”
Cruz got some guffaws from the crowd on this one—hopefully because it was such a jarring non-sequitur and not because CPAC thinks domestic violence is hilarious. Cruz’s brain probably leapfrogged from Hannity’s “liberal media” dig to the classic “loaded question” example, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Still, intensely awkward, and painfully inappropriate.
4) Phil Robertson’s entire speech.
The “Duck Dynasty guy” went on an extended rant about pre-marital sex and sexually transmitted infections that you had to see to believe. The joke on all of CPAC itself is that almost everybody in attendance did see it; the main ballroom was packed with conference-goers waiting to hear Jeb Bush.
Robertson called STIs “the revenge of the hippies” and lamented the 110 million Americans reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have some kind of STI.
“I don’t want you, America, to get sick. I don’t want you to become ill. I don’t want you to come down with debilitating diseases. I don’t want you to die early,” Robertson said. “You’re disease-free and she’s disease-free, you marry, you keep your sex right there.”
5) Bad joke, worse gaffe.
Scott Walker seemed to smirk during this off-the-cuff answer to a question about how he’d handle ISIS: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
It was obviously offensive to the pro-union organizers and supporters who fought tirelessly against Walker’s efforts to crush collective bargaining. Even Walker’s fellow conservatives had harsh criticism for the remark: The National Review called it “awful” and an “unforced error” to compare U.S. protesters, however much one may disagree with their views, with “murderous terrorists.”
Walker’s communications director then issued a statement saying that Walker was “in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS.” OK then.
6) And the Dada Award goes to… Grover Norquist.
This was less a joke than a bizarre extended metaphor. It’s worth quoting at length:
Over the next two years … the Republicans have the votes to pass good stuff, and Obama can veto it. Obama has the capacity to invent truly icky stuff, and we won’t pass it in the House and the Senate. We have two evenly matched sumo wrestlers, exactly the same weight, bouncing against each other unappealingly for two years, nobody gets knocked outside the red circle. So how do we communicate to our base, who already agrees with us, and the voters we’d like to agree with us, while this is going on? We have to have bifocal vision. And by that I mean we have to see and speak to where we’re going. We’re going to California, we’re going to the promised land, we’re going all that way, we’re going to pass the Ryan budget plan, we’re going to get rid of the income tax. The direction of where we want to go needs to be clear. But we also need, with bifocal vision, to look at our feet, so we don’t trip or walk into traffic, so that we focus on today and making little gains today. … Imagine that Frank Underwood thing where he turns to the audience and says, “Today, we’re taking baby steps, but our goal is all the way out to California.” If you’re trying to get to California, and you find yourself in West Virginia, that’s not treason. West Virginia is on the way to California. If, however, you’re trying to get to California, and your feet are wet, and everyone around you is speaking French, you’re losing. You’ve been heading in the wrong direction.