On Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) set Twitter ablaze with a tweet comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a monkey. The senator's "joke" referenced last week's strange story about an Iranian primate that was launched into orbit — an event that may have actually been an elaborate ruse.
So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week? "Iran launches monkey into space" news.yahoo.com/iran-launches-…— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 4, 2013
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) promptly lit into his GOP colleague.
Whoa.“@senjohnmccain: So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week? "Iran launches monkey into space"”— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) February 4, 2013
Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 4, 2013
Maybe you should wisen up & not make racist jokes. “@senjohnmccain: Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?”— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) February 4, 2013
Of course, this isn't the first time McCain has found himself in hot water for his peculiar sense wit. Far from it. At its best, the 76-year-old's humor, often vulgar and impish, feels like the type of off-color ribbing that endears him to his male colleagues in the Senate. At its worst — and man, does it get bad — McCain comes off like the offensive old uncle who never got with the program. Here, a sampling from McCain's comedy hall of fame:
1. In January, Senator McCain earned some chuckles when he jokingly told reporters that the Senate would waterboard Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) during his confirmation hearings for secretary of state. "We will look forward to interrogating him at his hearing next week, mercilessly," McCain said. "We will bring back — for the only time — waterboarding, to get the truth out of him." Watch:
The joke was signature McCain, a flash of unvarnished humor that can sound almost startling coming from the lips of a politician, particularly in a politically correct age in which even harmless jibes can become controversies. (And lest anyone gets up in arms, let's recall that McCain has long been a fierce critic of waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques.)
2. McCain claims he's converting to Judaism
At a farewell party for former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) hosted by Israel's ambassador to the U.S., McCain said he had spent so much time with his Senate buddy that he had decided to convert to Judaism. "I had to put up all the years with the bullshit of religion, I might as well convert," he said, to roars of laughter. He continued, in some strange mash-up of Andrew Dice Clay and Jerry Seinfeld, "Why in every fucking kosher meal do we have to have salmon?" McCain also recalled waking up on a plane to see Lieberman wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl. "I see this guy wrapped in a shawl," McCain said, "I thought maybe I died."
3. McCain takes on seniors
In his first presidential run in 2000, McCain was hounded by a couple of old-folks jokes that many found offensive. He referred to "Leisure World," a home for senior citizens, as "Seizure World," and also once cracked wise about Alzheimer's disease, saying, "The nice thing about Alzheimer's is you get to hide your own Easter eggs." McCain said he regretted both jokes, though he later reprised the Alzheimer's crack during the 2008 campaign, this time at his own expense.
4. McCain reinterprets The Beach Boys
In one of the more controversial moments of the 2008 race, McCain kidded (we think) about bombing Iran, to the tune of The Beach Boys' classic "Barbara Ann": "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." The audience he was speaking to loved it, but some liberals were outraged.
5. McCain slams a young Chelsea Clinton
In 1998, speaking at a Republican fundraiser, McCain told one of the most infamous jokes of his career. "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" he asked. "Because her father is Janet Reno." McCain later apologized for his remark, saying it was "insensitive and stupid and cruel."
6. McCain allegedly makes fun of rape victims
The all-time worst. The Tucson Citizen in 1986 reported that McCain, then a congressman running for Senate, had once told an audience this "joke" about rape victims: "Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, 'Where is that marvelous ape?'" McCain responded that he didn't "recall" making the joke.
This article — originally published on January 23, 2013 — was last updated on February 4, 2013.
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