Political gaffe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A political gaffe is an error in speech made by a politician.[1]


According to Barack Obama it is:

used by the press to describe any maladroit phrase by a candidate that reveals ignorance, carelessness, fuzzy thinking, insensitivity, malice, boorishness, falsehood, or hypocrisy – or is simply deemed to veer sufficiently far from the conventional wisdom to make said candidate vulnerable to attack.[2]

Kinsley gaffe[edit]

A Kinsley gaffe occurs when a political gaffe reveals some truth that a politician did not intend to admit.[3][4] The term comes from journalist Michael Kinsley, who said, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say."[5][6]

The term political gaffe may be used to describe an inadvertent statement made by a politician, who believes the statement to be true, while having not fully analyzed the consequences of publicly stating it. Another definition is a statement made when the politician privately believes it to be true, realizes the dire consequences of saying it, and yet inadvertently utters it in public.[7] Another definition is a politician's statement of what is on their mind—this may or may not be inadvertent—thereby leading to a ritualized "gaffe dance" between candidates. While exhibiting umbrage or shock, and playing on the mistake, the ostensibly offended candidate must not exhibit anything resembling glee.[8][9] A propensity to concentrate on so-called "gaffes" in campaigns has been criticized as a journalistic device that can lead to distraction from real issues.[A] The Kinsley gaffe is said to be a species of the general "political gaffe."[10]

Kinsley himself posed the question: "Why should something a politician says by accident automatically be taken as a better sign of his or her real thinking than something he or she says on purpose?"[9]

Steven Pinker has contended that politicians use vague and indirect language to avoid making concrete statements, and that lazy journalists base political coverage around "gaffe spotting" rather than analysis of political platforms.[11]

The rise of Internet activism has created a new generation of negative campaigning where a political campaign can create attack ads within an hour of a politician making a gaffe.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ". . . the episode is a perfect gaffe precisely because its content was so meaningless. . ." Chait, Jonathan (June 14, 2012). "The Origins of the Gaffe, Politics' Idiot-Maker". New York. Retrieved August 4, 2012.


  1. ^ "Definition for gaffe – Oxford Dictionaries Online (World English)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2012-05-29.[dead link]
  2. ^ Barack Obama, A Promised Land (2020) p. 82.
  3. ^ Webster, Merriam (June 3, 1972). "Merriam Webster definition of Gaffe". Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  4. ^ Goddard, Taegan. "Kinsley Gaffe". Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary. Political Wire. Archived from the original on August 17, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  5. ^ Kinsley, Michael (April 23, 1988), "Commentary: The gaffer speaks", The Times
  6. ^ Friedman, Nancy (August 22, 2011). "Word of the Week: Kinsley Gaffe". Fritinancy. Archived from the original on May 11, 2012.
  7. ^ McKim, Brian; Skene, Tracy (January 17, 2012). "Brill makes a "Kinsley gaffe"". Shecky Magazine. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  8. ^ Smajda, Jon (October 23, 2008). "Michael Kinsley on the ritual of the gaffe". Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Kinsley, Michael (March 6, 2012). "Kinsley: Limbaugh and the hypocrisy of the gaffe". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
  10. ^ Amira, Dan (June 14, 2012). "A Taxonomy of Gaffes". New York. New York, NY USA. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  11. ^ Political Rhetoric, Explained - Steven Pinker. 14 October 2008 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "Matthew McGregor Kevin Rudd Attack Dog, Mitt Romney Gaffe Video". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Rudd flies in Team Obama". The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 July 2013.

Further reading[edit]