A delegation of American senators met earlier this month in Cairo with a spokesperson for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, according to the New York Times. The spokesperson clarified press accounts of Mr. Morsi’s recent description of Jews as “bloodsuckers,” “pigs” and “dogs.” The remarks, he explained, were “taken out of context.” The senators left the meeting “feeling as if Mr Morsi had addressed the issue,” according to the report.
In order to place the Egyptian spokesperson’s remarks in context, a ramble across past and present might be in order so as to uncover other examples of remarks being similarly “taken out of context.”
• Meeting on the beach outside besieged Troy with Greek bards, a spokesperson for mythical hero Achilles discussed a recent exchange he had with King Agamemnon over a war prize. Forced by Agamemnon to turn over the booty, god-like Achilles informed his commander that he was “a dog-faced, staggering drunk who was the most shameless, cowardly and grasping man alive.” He quit the army and retired to his tent.
When a bard asked for a clarification of the swift-footed warrior’s remarks, the spokesperson grabbed a spear and ran him through as rosy-fingered dawn appeared over the wine dark sea. The other bards felt as if Achilles had addressed the issue. (The prize, Chryseis, whose father was employed by Apollo as his priest, had no say in the matter.)
• Meeting with a single English reporter on the god-forsaken volcanic rock called Saint Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte, the recently retired Emperor of the French, was asked to clarify a remark he made about his former minister Charles Talleyrand, describing him as a “serving of s— in a silk stocking.”
Napolean, the pale, yet feisty former First Consul, King of Italy and Protector of the Rhine Confederation, brushed back a lock of hair from his forehead, fixed his pale blue eyes on the journalist and replied: “Glory is fleeting, obscurity is forever.” As he cradled a hand inside his vest and looked over the great expanse of the South Atlantic, Mr Bonaparte added: “But silk stockings, if properly cared for, can last years.”
• Meeting in Moscow with the Soviet press, Nikita Kruschchev too pains to clarify an observation he had recently made to a group of Western ambassadors: “We will bury you!” Gently pounding the podium with a Hush Puppy handed to him by a nearby apparatchik, the Soviet premier insisted the remark was taken out of context. “No, no, no: that was not at all my meaning,” he confided. “What I said was ‘Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will take a shovel and dig you in.”
When a Polish reporter asked the premier to elaborate on the distinction, two burly men dragged him off and loaded him into an idling Lada. Flashing his winning smile, Mr Krushchev held up a finger: “Score another for history.”
• Meeting in Boston with the national press, a spokesman for the Boston Celtics clarified remarks center Kevin Garnett has made, during the last decade, to approximately 142 NBA players: “Try to dunk on me and I’ll insert that ball in a place only gastroenterologists dare thread.”
Reading from prepared remarks, the spokesperson insisted the remark, and its many variations, have consistently been pulled from their context. “If the press were to watch video tapes of these various encounters, they will see that Kevin was sincerely concerned that his opponents had not had a colonoscopy during the previous five years.” When several reporters expressed their incredulity, the spokesperson replied: “And when was your last exam?”
• Meeting with French and foreign reporters at the Elysée Palace, un spokespersonne sought to elucidate remarks made by President Nicolas Sarkozy in a conversation with President Barack Obama. Discussing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sarkozy reportedly expressed his sympathy with the American president’s difficulty in managing the thorny relationship. “You are fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.” Worried that the translator had not caught his full meaning, Sarkozy lifted his Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses, leaned towards the president and elaborated: “He’s a liar!”
When asked if reports were true that the translator had been transferred to Department of Fisheries on the French-owned rocks of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in the North Atlantic, le spokespersonne nodded his head: “Pour encourager les autres.”
• Meeting in Washington with the national press, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner discussed a recent exchange he had with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. According to reports, when he passed the senator in a hallway, he invited him to “Go f— yourself!”
When asked if he could clarify Mr Boehner’s remark, the spokesperson replied that the House Speaker had already done so at Mr Reid’s request. “Yes,” one reporter replied, “but Mr Boehner simply repeated the invitation word for word.” With that, the spokesperson politely suggested that the reporter undertake the same exercise, high-fived his assistants and walked away.