Skip to navigationSkip to content
FOOD FAILS

Glorious photos of world leaders eating badly in public

Reuters/Issei Kato
Shinzo Abe . . . just going for it during a campaign event in Soma, Fukushima prefecture in 2014.
By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

On Monday night (Aug. 1) US presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted a picture of himself enjoying KFC from the comfort of his personal plane. Though he has since been roundly criticized for eating fried chicken with silverware, let’s give him credit for what he did right: posing for the photo on his own terms.

Few traditions seem more clearly designed to humiliate a politician than the public consumption of everyman foods like ice cream, hot dogs and deep-fried anything. It’s a photo-op that makes even the most elite seem down-to-earth, as they struggle to cram unwieldy shapes into their mouths with a show of gusto. For US presidential hopefuls, this awkward charade usually reaches its height at the annual Iowa State Fair:

Reuters/Daniel Acker
Michele Bachmann reacts to mustard, as she tries a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair in 2011.

It’s also a global phenomenon. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott unblinkingly chomped into a raw, unpeeled onion while visiting a farm in Tasmania last year, while the UK’s former Labour leader Ed Miliband made headlines with his bleary-eyed attack on a bacon sandwich in 2014. But there are a few poised exceptions. Good luck finding many photos of Vladimir Putin eating lunch, for example. They’re hard to come by—perhaps by design.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
US president Barack Obama and former UK prime minister David Cameron chew as they attend a first-round NCAA basketball game in Dayton, Ohio, in 2012.
AP Photo/Michael Sohn
German chancellor Angela Merkel, right, struggles with a piece of cheese at an agricultural fair in Berlin in 2013.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Former US president George W. Bush lunges for frozen custard in Minnesota in 2006.
Reuters/Rick Wilking
Donald Trumps handles the whipped cream on his hot chocolate with care, at Chez-Vauchon restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire in February, 2016.
Reuters/Gary Cameron
US president Barack Obama unconvincingly approaches a shaved ice in Kailua, Hawaii in 2015.
Reuters/Jon Nazca
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy devours a churro in Malaga in 2015.
Reuters/Jim Young
On the other hand… US vice president Joe Biden had his ice cream flavors locked down while campaigning in Pennsylvania in 2008.
Reuters/Misha Japaridze/Pool
And Putin looks, but never touches, during a dinner outside Moscow in 2011.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.