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Highlights From Boris Johnson’s Excruciatingly Awkward Press Conference

Boris Johnson and John Kerry had a shared press conference on Tuesday. It didn't go so well for Boris.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joke together during a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on July 19, 2016 in London, England. The Foreign Secretary met with John Kerry to discuss the importance of the 'Special Relationship' after the UK voted to leave the EU in the June referendum.  (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joke together during a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on July 19, 2016 in London, England. The Foreign Secretary met with John Kerry to discuss the importance of the 'Special Relationship' after the UK voted to leave the EU in the June referendum. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

It’s unlikely that anyone thought Boris Johnson’s first London press conference as Britain’s new foreign secretary would go smoothly, per se. But did it really have to be this bad? And also, Boris, could you please smooth down that infuriating tuft of hair sticking out the top of your head?

Below, Foreign Policy has compiled some of the worst (or best) moments of the event, which took place beside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in London.

  • Multiple journalists asked Johnson to defend his history of insults. And Brad Klapper, from The Associated Press, took the time to recount some of Johnson’s less forgivable moments: “You’ve accused the current U.S. president, Barack Obama, of harboring a part-Kenyan’s, quote, ‘ancestral dislike [of] the British Empire,’ unquote,” he said. “You’ve described possible future U.S. president Hillary Clinton as someone with, quote, ‘dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,’ unquote. You’ve also likened her to Lady Macbeth.”
  • Here’s one of Johnson’s responses to critiques of his behavior: “I’m afraid that there is such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been, one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know, somehow misconstrued that it would really take me too long to engage in a full-blown itinerary or apology to all concerned,” he said. “And I think most people who read these things in their proper context can see what is intended.”
  • Johnson, at one point, mentioned a “burgeoning crisis in Egypt.” This is particularly notable because he brought it up twice, and it would appear he may have actually meant Turkey, where a coup attempt was foiled over the weekend.
  • Gardiner Harris, a New York Times reporter, asked how Kerry and other world leaders “should believe what [Johnson] says” due to his history of telling “outright lies.” Johnson interrupted, saying that he appreciates “the first amendment and your right to free speech, but I think we need chapter and verse on this stuff.”

    Then Johnson apologized for interrupting, and Harris pointed out that if Johnson were in his shoes, he would ask the same questions.

    “I think people are more than welcome to rake over stuff I’ve written over many, many years, but I think the most important thing is to get on with the very heavy agenda we have before us today,” Johnson responded.
  • Kerry was, at one point, put in the incredibly unfortunate position of actually almost complimenting Johnson, despite the fact the now British foreign secretary led the campaign to remove Britain from the European Union and has, as indicated above, insulted Kerry’s colleagues at home. Kerry acted gracefully, saying that those who have worked with him have described him as a “very smart and capable man.” He added: “That’s the Boris Johnson I intend to work with.”

    “Phew. Stop there, that’s great,” Johnson said. “It’s called diplomacy, Boris,” Kerry responded.

Photo credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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