A History of Infamous Hugs
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Infamous Hugs

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Photo: Jim Palmer/AP

When Sammy Davis Jr. surprise-hugged President Richard Nixon at the 1972 GOP convention, it apparently reflected poorly on both of them. According to the Library of Congress, Davis claimed that “a widely publicized photo of the embrace infuriated members of the black press and also some of Nixon’s supporters, who were outraged to see a black man hug the president.”

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Photo: Carter Bettman/Corbis

At the June 1979 SALT II summit in Vienna, as David Satter recalled in the Times, “[Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev greeted [Jimmy] Carter with the words, ‘God will not forgive us if we fail.’ Overcome with emotion, Carter threw his arms around Brezhnev and photographs of the embrace appeared on front pages all over the world. Carter’s emotional reaction was taken to symbolize U.S. faith in the Soviet Union’s good intentions.” Six months later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and Carter? He would never hug again.

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Photo: Getty Images

"That Bill Clinton -- such a people’s person. Look at how he immediately connects with a random fan in the crowd."– thoughts of American TV viewers, November 6, 1996.

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Photo: Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

During a trip to Ramallah in 1999, First Lady and (soon-to-be senate candidate) Hillary Clinton gave Suha Arafat, wife of Yasser, a hug and a kiss just after Arafat had made a speech accusing Israel of gassing Palestinians and poisoning their water supply. What was the deal? Had Clinton let her secret Jew-hatred slip out into the open in front of everybody? Probably not -- Clinton claimed that “the English translation of Arafat's speech made the comments appear not as harsh.” The embrace dogged Clinton’s senate campaign, but when it came down to a choice between Rick Lazio and a potential terrorist-sympathizer, New York went with the potential terrorist-sympathizer.

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Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Redux

For the Obama campaign, one really easy way to demonstrate John McCain’s allegedly close relationship to George W. Bush was to paper the country with this 2004 photo of McCain clinging to Bush like a sleepy baby koala.

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General rule of thumb, circa the mid-2000s: Never hug Bush! Actually, this one was more of a kiss, which Bush planted on Lieberman after giving his 2005 State of the Union address. For a while, it was known as “The Kiss,” as if it was the most important kiss that had ever happened. Partly because of his support for Dubya as immortalized in “The Kiss,” Lieberman lost the 2006 Democratic senate nomination in Connecticut to Ned Lamont, which turned out to be a minor inconvenience for Lieberman on his way to re-election as an independent.

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George W. Bush isn’t the only president who can ruin someone’s political career just by touching them with his arms. A photo of once-popular Florida governor Charlie Crist hugging it out with President Obama on February 10, 2009 was almost single-handedly responsible for Crist’s loss in the 2010 Florida senate race. Also responsible: Marco Rubio’s adorableness.

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The collective gasp emanating from the island of Great Britain on April 1, 2009, when Michelle Obama dared to embrace Queen Elizabeth, could reportedly be heard as far away as Japan.


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