A Recent History of Things That Have Been Thrown at Political Figures


Last week, Sarah Palin was signing copies of her highly successful and accurate book when she suddenly became the intended target of two airborne tomatoes — the latest addition to a proud and noble tradition of throwing things at political figures we don’t like. It’s an act of defiance that presidents, pundits, mayors, governors, and Ralph Nader alike have been unable to escape. We’ve put together a guide to the most notable incidents involving American politicos over the past decade or so, some of which — thankfully, because they’re usually hilarious — were captured on video for posterity.

1998: Willie Brown: While speaking about a new street-cleaning initiative, the San Francisco mayor was attacked by a barrage of cherry, pumpkin, and tofu pies courtesy of the so-called Biotic Baking Brigade. The baked-goods assault was a protest against Brown’s policies on homelessness — ironic, since those very pies could have easily fed at least half a dozen hungry homeless people. (Watch the video)

Photo: Getty Images

2000: Dan Glickman: Bill Clinton’s secretary of Agriculture was targeted by a pie as he spoke at the National Nutrition Summit. The protester yelled, “Shame on you, Dan Glickman, you meathead. Shame on you for promoting meat,” as she tossed the pie, which “grazed” the back of Glickman’s jacket. Afterward, he responded with some secretary of Agriculture humor: “That was not a very balanced meal she threw at me.”

Photo: Getty Images

2000: George Ryan: The Illinois governor was hit by a pie tossed by a Southern Illinois University student in protest of Ryan’s education policies. Ryan laughed it off, joking, “It didn’t taste too bad, kind of walnut or something with cream.” Incorrect — the pie was made from chocolate pudding.

Photo: Getty Images

2001: Bill Clinton: The former president was pelted by an egg as he exited an antique store in Warsaw, Poland, by a 19-year-old protester. Clinton removed his jacket and continued strolling through the city, and later remarked that it’s “good for young people to be angry about something.”

2003: Ralph Nader: Nader was pied in a place he would seem to be the safest — inside the Green Party headquarters in San Francisco, where he was endorsing the party’s candidate in the California recall election. Though Nader was able to return fire with some of the pie remains, the prankster was, somehow, never apprehended. (Watch the video)

2003: Arnold Schwarzenegger: We don’t know if the reason Arnold didn’t react sooner to having an egg explode on his neck is because he was trying to not to draw attention to it, or because he didn’t feel the egg because he’s made of robot. Regardless, as an added bonus, there is a truly amazing moment near the one-minute mark of this clip where an insane man flips out on a Schwarzenegger heckler. (Watch the video)

2004: Anne Coulter: While speaking at the University of Arizona, Coulter spotted two members of “Al Pieda” coming her way just in the nick of time. She gasped into the microphone before either darting behind stage or conjuring up the dark arts and disappearing. The two assailants claimed they were “throwing the pies at her ideas, not at her,” but the police were not high and therefore not persuaded. (Watch the video)

2005: Bill Kristol: The conservative pundit was hit with an ice-cream pie while speaking about foreign policy at Earlham University in Indiana. The student who threw the pie said he was “making a statement about what he called a mock dialog,” according to a local paper. Admirably enough, Kristol reacted to the incident by wiping some pie off of his face and quickly returning to his address with, “Just let me finish this point.” (Watch the video)

2005: Pat Buchanan: Only two days after the Kristol incident, another conservative pundit, Pat Buchanan, was speaking at Western Michigan University when he was covered in salad dressing by a protester who yelled, ““Stop the bigotry!” Buchanan ended his Q&A session short, explaining, “Thank you all for coming, but I’m going to have to get my hair washed.” Truly a compassionate conservative, he declined to press felony assault charges. (Watch the video)

2008: Thomas Friedman: The Times columnist was only seconds into his remarks about energy at Brown University when environmental activists stormed the stage and tossed two green-colored pies at him. Friedman nearly compounded the embarrassment by nearly taking a spill on the goo, but he nimbly managed to maintain his balance. A clearly distraught Friedman then left the auditorium for five to ten minutes to clean himself up before returning. (Watch the video)

Photo: Getty Images

2008: James Douglas: The governor of Vermont was walking in a Fourth of July parade when a man dressed as Santa Claus launched a pie right in his face as a protest against his energy policies. The man eventually apologized and called himself “a disappointment to [his] community.” He was ordered by a judge to, among other things, make a donation to the Vermont Food Bank in the amount of Douglas’s dry-cleaning bill.

2008: George W. Bush: The president was at a press conference in Iraq when an Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, stood up and fired both his shoes straight at his head. Little did al-Zeidi — or anyone else at the time — realize, Bush has the reflexes of a jungle cat. The president later referred to the shoe-throwing episode as “one of the most weird moments of my presidency.” (Watch the video)

Photo: Getty Images

2009: Norm Coleman: Locked in a never-ending recount with Al Franken and a long-running war with neighborhood ruffians, the Minnesota senator was greeted at his front door by a man who reportedly yelled “I [expletive] can’t stand what you represent” before firing a pair of eggs. Coleman says he “kind of ducked. A George Bush move,” though as far as anyone knows the eggs were just thrown off-target.

Photo: Getty Images

2009: Sarah Palin: While signing copies of her memoir at one of the Mall of America’s probably two dozen Barnes & Noble stores, Palin was targeted by two tomatoes tossed from the second-floor balcony. Jeremy Paul Olsen’s flying fruit never even came close to hitting Palin, but did end up connecting with a police officer’s face, a pretty reliable way to get thrown in jail.