Fishing gaffe…

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‘I’d better use the right words in this story…’

During 23 years with the BBC, and 40 years in journalism (when he was trained to use simple language, avoiding jargon), for our Editor Welshman Phil Parry blunders (or ‘gaffes’), whether wilful or not, have always featured prominently as politicians fish for votes, and this is now put centre stage by revelations about the latest one from the most powerful man on earth, even as his likely Republican opponent in the US Presidential elections has been condemned for doing the same thing.  

Earlier Phil has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off

Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of history and teaching the subject is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.


He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting. 


They are embarrassing for supporters, but BRILLIANT for journalists.

‘Gaffes’ by senior politicians make fantastic copy for reporters covering an event, but they are cringeworthy to the party faithful, and in the latest example of this, Joe Biden (aged 81) managed to get dead French President Francois Mitterrand mixed up with the present one Emmanuel Macron (both their last names begin with ‘M’, so I suppose allowances can be made!), and even got the country they lead (or led) confused with another one!

In a speech in Las Vegas which went viral, Mr Biden declared: “And Mitterand from Germany – I mean from France – looked at me and said, ‘You know – what, why how long you back for?'”.

Mr Biden is very much in the news now, and his memory lapses have become a major electoral issue, much to the delight of Republicans.

Robert Hur described Joe Biden, as an “elderly man with a poor memory”

No charges are to be filed against him after an inquiry into his mishandling of classified files, but the official report into it all from Robert Hur, the special counsel at the Department of Justice (DoJ), was devastating nonetheless.

He described Mr Biden, as an “elderly man with a poor memory” who had “diminished faculties in advancing age”.

But Donald Trump (aged 77) would be unwise to make political capital out of this (as he has done in the past), because he too has made stupid slips of the tongue…

Sioux City, Iowa, NOT Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

Mr Trump told supporters at a rally:  “A very big hello to a place where we’ve done very well: Sioux Falls. Thank you very much, Sioux Falls”.

But he was actually in Sioux City, Iowa (not Sioux Falls, South Dakota) and while the slip caught the attention of those in the crowd, who shouted out the right location, he didn’t correct himself until a state lawmaker whispered in his ear.


Sioux Falls, South Dakota NOT Sioux City, Iowa!

Bizarrely even at this rally he mocked Mr Biden for his mistakes. Mr Trump said that his likely rival in the Presidential elections, wasn’t even able to read a teleprompter, and did a weak imitation of the Democrat trying to make out the words on the screen. “He can’t do anything”, he said to cheers. But soon after, Mr Trump appeared to struggle to read his OWN teleprompter.

They have BOTH made gaffes

He also mispronounced “Canada” while talking about how he had ended the North American Free Trade Agreement, and replaced it with another deal with Canada and Mexico.

When speaking earlier, also in Las Vegas, Mr Trump struggled to read a “beautiful” prepared speech, saying he didn’t have enough lights to see and was “going to have to wing it”.

‘Hello Mr Erdogan, er, I mean Orbán…’

Mr Trump has also made mistakes about country leaders (like Mr Biden).

At a rally in New Hampshire last year, he incorrectly said Viktor Orbán is the “leader of Turkey”, when Mr Orbán is actually the Prime Minister of Hungary (the leader of Turkey is Recep Tayyip Erdogan). He claimed, as well, that both Ukraine and Russia bordered Hungary, when in fact only one of them does!

Ron DeSantis set up a mistakes tracker

Mr Trump’s Republican challengers (and former ones) have jumped in.

The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who at one time was the number two potential candidate for the party according to polls, posted a “Trump Accident Tracker” on X (formerly Twitter).

It is bad enough to make these kind of mistakes, let alone laughing at your opponent for doing the same thing!

Joe Biden, aged 81, seems to be unaware of what he’s doing…

Mr Trump made hay when Mr Biden met the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, but got it mixed up with the Congressional BLACK Caucus.

At a speech in Washington Mr Biden praised the work of a nun called Sister Norma Pimentel, saying: “The Congressional Black Caucus embodies all (her) values”. The day before he had bumped into the Brazilian flag during a media conference at the UN, and forgot to shake the hand of Brazil’s President Lula da Silva as he left the stage.

Joe Biden likes to quote John Wayne, but it was Tyrone Power

Earlier a Press Conference of his in Hanoi had come to a strange and abrupt end when Mr Biden’s media adviser announced there would be no questions, and jazz music interrupted his speech.

He had said: “There’s a lot of lying dog-faced pony soldiers out there about global warming”. Mr Biden declared that it came from a line in a John Wayne film, however movie-buffs have been unable to find this in any John Wayne picture; there IS a 1952 Western called Pony Soldier, but it stars Tyrone Power not Mr Wayne, and mention is made there of a ‘Pony Soldier’, however the phrase is that it has the “….tongue of a snake”. Perhaps he meant this?!

‘I’m going to bed…’

Mr Biden also told reporters in the same Press Conference: “I tell you what, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go to bed”. I suppose this is, perhaps, more understandable given the likely jet lag, but even so his media adviser was probably right to announce suddenly that there would be no questions, because you don’t know what Mr Biden might say next!

His mistakes in the past have been legendary.

‘Are you the Black and Tans, or the All Blacks?!’

While at a pub in the Irish town of Dundalk, Mr Biden managed to mistake the All Blacks, (New Zealand’s rugby team), for the notorious Black and Tans – a British paramilitary unit that fought in a terrible way against the IRA a century ago. The error was labelled “cringeworthy” or merely “unfortunate”, depending on who was doing the labelling, and it got even more attention after the White House edited it out of the official transcript.

‘I must look where I’m going…’

He stumbled twice in two weeks on the stairs of Air Force One, and a slew of news stories followed.

But it isn’t simply his age which makes his advisers nervous of what he might say (although Mr Biden’s blunders seem to be coming thick and fast recently), because he made similar slip-ups when he was younger.

‘Stand up Chuck Graham!’

In February 2009 speaking to members of the House Democratic caucus who were gathered in Williamsburg, Virginia, for their annual retreat, he proclaimed: “If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30 per cent chance we’re going to get it wrong”. He had, of course, to appear relentlessly upbeat and 100 per cent positive about his party’s policies.

Joe Biden is such a good friend of Hillary Clinton’s, and she could do the job better than him apparently!

His recent slips of the tongue have always been seized on by the media (as well as Mr Trump), however in September 2008 Mr Biden had declared: “I’m told Chuck Graham, state senator, is here. Stand up Chuck, let ’em see you. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about? I’ll tell you what, you’re making everybody else stand up, though, pal!”. He then realised that Mr Graham was confined to a wheelchair.

In the same month, he suggested someone else could do the job better than him, saying: “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice-President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend. She is qualified to be President of the United States of America. She’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me. But she’s first rate”. Yet Mr Biden giving the impression that somebody else could do the job better than he could, is not ‘first rate’.

‘It’s SO confusing – Macron and Mitterrand start with the same letter!’

But at least he didn’t then get a dead President mixed up with the present, living, one – or confuse two important countries.

He has now though…


The memories of Phil’s astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism (during which the mistakes of senior politicians were always reported) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!

Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.

Men on motorbikes shouted death threats

Tomorrow – as reports grow of a huge upsurge in worrying activity by Iran with its part-time secret agents targeting journalists in the UK after they have reported on the enormous protests against the regime there, Phil looks at the importance of allowing a free media to support a functioning democracy.