Lifestyle & Belief

These 12 leaders were targets of hilarious shoe attacks for not so hilarious reasons


> on April 10, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Isaac Brekken

Inspired by Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at former President George W. Bush during a Baghdad press conference, other journalists, protesters and citizens have also turned to their feet to make their point. Most recently, the target was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Here's a look at 12 episodes of shoe-throwing since that fateful day in Iraq, and who got hit: 


1. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton was the most recent target of a shoe at the head while giving a speech in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 10. “What was that, a bat? ... Was that part of Cirque de Soleil?” she asked, surprised by the flying object.

Alison Ernst, the shoe thrower, gave no reason for her protest, which is odd since usually there's supposed to be a point to such an act. Stranger still, Ernst once claimed to have evidence that James Holmes, the guy who shot up an Aurora movie theater in 2012, killing 12 people — was innocent.


2. Former US President George W. Bush

This is a classic at this point. During Bush’s surprise visit to Baghdad on Dec. 14, 2008, just 37 days before the end of his presidency, an Iraqi journalist hurled both his shoes at the president, bidding him farewell and calling him a "dog." Bush, in an uncharacteristic moment of physical and mental acuity, avoided the shoes, joking, “All I can report is that it’s a size 10.”

Some estimate the Iraq War led to the deaths of some half a million people.


3. Former Chinese President Wen Jiabao

Cambridge University researcher Martin Jahnke threw his left shoe at Wen, who was giving a speech at the university's concert hall, on Feb. 2, 2009. Standing up from the crowd, Jahnke shouted, “How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here? How can you listen to the lies he is telling? Stand up and protest."

Jahnke made his point, though not with the shoe. It landed nowhere near Wen, who casually watched it sail by before returning his focus to the lectern.


4. Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan

This was not a successful outing for the Israeli ambassador. Dagan was at the University of Stockholm on Feb. 5, 2009 giving a speech about forthcoming elections and Israeli involvement in Gaza. But what anyone remembers is that one woman threw a shoe at Dagan, hitting him in the chest, and screaming "murders" and "intifada." Another person threw a book.

The shoe-thrower asked for it back. “It was a red Nike shoe,” she explained.

5. Former International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Crying, “get out of the university, thief IMF,” student journalist and protester, Selcuk Ozbek, chucked a white sports shoe at Strauss-Kahn on Oct. 1, 2009 during the IMF’s annual conference in Istanbul.

The shoe missed its target, bouncing off another student’s head and landing on the stage next to Strauss-Kahn.

"One thing I learned, Turkish students are polite. They waited until the end to complain," Strauss-Kahn said.

The IMF, if you are wondering, is often criticized for the conditionality of its loans. The IMF requires policy reforms as a condition for lending (if the policy reforms are not met, the loans are withheld). But critics say too often the IMF intervenes in countries with little understanding of local economic conditions and culture, dangling cash in exchange for policy changes it (but not always the voters of said country) believe in, and ultimately just makes things worse.


6. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

In the Muslim world, throwing a shoe is extremely offensive. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the target of this indecency during his trip to Cairo on Feb. 5, 2013. A Syrian man tried to hit the president with a shoe, accusing Ahmadinejad of the indecency of aiding in the “killing his brothers.”

Iran is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has been financially and materially supporting the Syrian government during its civil war, which has killed more than 150,000 people since 2011. You can read more about the Syrian conflict here.


7. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard

During an Australian talk show in 2010, Iraqi war protester, Peter Gray, launched two shoes at Howard for supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Gray shouted, “That is for the Iraqi dead” as he threw the first shoe, and “this is for the Iraqi living” as he threw the second. Both shoes missed Howard. "Quite a few people said I throw like a girl,” Gray said later in an interview as many criticized his aim. His point, however, was made. Again, half a million are believed to have died either directly or indirectly as a result of the war, including nearly 5,000 US service members.


8. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf

In this incident, the shoe’s owner was a member of a group of about 20 lawyers protesting against Musharraf on March 29, 2013. The protester shouted, “He’s a dictator and he should be hanged.”  

Musharraf had been in self-imposed exile for the past four years. He returned to Pakistan in the hopes of making a political comeback, according to the New York Times. It did not work out the way Musharraf hoped. He is now on trial for treason.


9. Former Chief Minister of Pakistan, Arbab Ghulam Rahim

Less of a shoe-throw, more of a shoe-slap to the face.

Rahim, another self-exiled Pakistani politician, fell victim to the sole of a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member's shoe on April 7, 2008. According to One India News, the PPP was upset that Rahim failed to organize enough security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated a few months earlier by a gunman as she waved to supporters from her car.


10. Home Minister of India Palaniappan Chidambaram

A journalist, angry that the party of India's home minister was fielding a candidate accused of leading anti-Sikh riots in 1984, hurled his shoe in protest on April 7, 2009.

"How can he (Chidambaram) be happy when one community faces injustice? They were stopping me from talking. I don't think I have done the right thing but the issue called for it," said Jarnail Singh, the Sikh reporter who threw the shoe.


11. Former US Ambassador Paul Bremer

During a speech at a British think-tank on Feb. 11, 2013, an Iraqi man hurled his shoes at former US envoy to Iraq, Paul Bremer. The man yelled, “You f***** up my country, you destroyed the country” before being escorted out.

To this Bremer suggested the man “improve his aim if he wants to do things like that.” He then said, “If he had done that while Saddam Hussein had been alive he would be a dead man right now.” It's unclear why the former Iraqi president would care if someone threw a shoe at Paul Bremer.

The man, of course, had a point. Here's a chart that details how the US-led war sparked a sectarian conflict and created a dangerous haven for Al Qaeda.


12. President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou

A protester threw a shoe at President Ma Ying-Jeou on Oct. 19, 2013 as he gave a speech at a sports event. This was just one of many shoes thrown at the president. The public had grown dissatisfied with both the ruling Kuomintang party as well as the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Due to the inordinate number of shoes thrown at Ma Ying-Jeou during his tenure, the Taiwanese police spent about $16,000 to buy 149 shoe-catching nets to protect the president. Perhaps that money could have been better spent addressing the concerns of Taiwan's citizens?