Uncomfortable Congressional Moments Caught On Camera

It's nice to think that the people in charge of things on a federal level are somehow, well, "adultier" than the rest of us. They're the ones who knew that when they grew up, they wanted to be in positions where they could make laws, help those who were struggling the most, and change the world for the better. Sounds great, right?

Instead, Americans got whatever the heck has been going on in Washington, D.C. for many years, and let's be honest: Watch the Congressional outtakes that make it to the news and social media, and it's clear that many of them are far from being the adultiest of adults. There's kindergarten-level bickering, grade school-level spite, and high school-level cliques. And then, there's the people who have been in office since the Civil War. (Approximately.) Throw that all together, and sometimes, it all just ends in tears.

Everyone makes mistakes, sure, and everyone has those moments in life where you just want to rewind time a few minutes, and maybe give things another go. When you're in Congress, things are a little more high-stakes than that time you told a waitress, "You, too!" when she said to enjoy your meal. Want to feel better about those moments? Congress has you covered.

John Boehner kissing Nancy Pelosi

When Democrat Nancy Pelosi welcomed Ohio Republican John Boehner as the Speaker of the House in 2015, she lauded him as "a man of abiding faith, great heart, and deep dedication, [and] truly a gentleman from Ohio." After handing over the comically large gavel, Boehner planted a big ol' kiss on Pelosi's cheek — but really, that was only because she turned her face away at the last second.

Weird? He apparently didn't think so, because he made headlines again a few months later. In April of the same year, he puckered up to give her another kiss on the cheek at a reception being held in the Rose Garden at the White House, then planted another one on her in 2022, when Pelosi's portrait was unveiled at the Capitol. As if the kiss wasn't uncomfortable enough, there's also the fact that her husband (who was still recovering from a recent and brutal home invasion attack) was right there. Way to double and triple down?

Responses were varied: Boehner told CNN, "That was just a kiss, that's all," while Twitter had a field day with the whole thing. Comments (collected by The Washington Post) included "This may be the 3rd sign of the apocalypse," and the ever-popular, "Bow Chicka Wow Wow."

Ike Skelton tells another congressman where to stick it

When 81-year-old Ike Skelton died in 2013, he'd been in Congress for more than three decades, and in a formal statement, Husch Blackwell chairman Maurice Watson lauded his devotion (via The New York Times): "He led an exemplary life of honor, courage, and public service." Skelton was well-known for his support of the military, gun rights, and national defense — and that only helped make one 2009 moment even more uncomfortable.

Skelton was the Armed Services Committee Chairman when he got into a heated debate over whether or not hate crimes against LBGTQ+ people should be included in federal defense policy bills. Things got heated, and when Skelton finished a series of comments directed toward fellow Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, he paused and — quietly yet deliberately — declared: "So stick it up your a**."

Yikes? Like... what's the proper response here? Skelton's a military supporter, after all, does he want to throw down after this? What's he going to do if someone does what they probably really wanted to do... which was to laugh? His comments didn't go unnoticed, and although his team said (via CBS) that it was "said out of frustration in the heat of the debate," others made it clear that sort of thing wasn't acceptable behavior for anyone in Congress. The remark wasn't included in the official records.

Marjorie Taylor Greene shares indecent images

Marjorie Taylor Greene is known as one of the loudest voices in Congress, for better or — for oftentimes — worse. While it's definitely true that in order for some things to change, the public has to confront an uncomfortable truth, Greene's congressional colleagues have had a lot to say about her methods — particularly her penchant for brandishing pornographic images on the floor.

In September 2023, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin tried to put a stop to Greene's display of what was apparently a woman in a bathing suit. His gripe? She'd shown much more graphic images before, and although Raskin attempted an explanation, any transcript of the ensuing conversation includes Greene talking over him about bathing suits. Raskin clarified that she hadn't gone through the process of having images approved, and the admonishment was a reminder of an earlier incident in which she waved around images not of a woman in a bathing suit, but a naked Hunter Biden.

For decorum's sake, that's not the video above: It's also worth noting that this earlier demonstration — which came with only photos, and no evidence to back up claims of criminal activity — was widely denounced by fellow congress members. Raskin submitted a formal letter to Chairman James Comer, saying Greene's actions were done "for purely voyeuristic, sensationalistic, and sadistic purposes." He added it was "the level of a 1970s-era dime store peep show," while MSNBC added that her presentation was an "obscene sideshow."

Congress managed to make Taylor Swift sound uncool

For every person who scrambles to get concert tickets ASAP, there are countless more who just can't be bothered to wade into the fray and fight for the relatively few available tickets that cost an exorbitant amount of money. The practices of Ticketmaster and Live Nation were called into question early on in 2023, and for some reason, multiple senators — including Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, and Utah's Mike Lee — decided that the best way to get their point across was via Taylor Swift quotes.

CNN's Don Lemon called it "cringe," after hiding laughter during a broadcast covering the hearing, while the Los Angeles Times faithfully reprinted all the quotes ... along with an apology, and an explanation: "Because we heard them, (so now you have to hear them too)."

Lee explained more to The Washington Post and confirmed that it was his daughter who had been texting him lyrics throughout the meeting. (Blumenthal, too, collaborated with his children to find his lyrics.) That moment when Grandpa brings dinnertime conversation to a halt by reciting the latest pop lyrics while clearly not understanding what they mean, then waiting for applause? Yeah, it's that. (But at least it wasn't "Watermelon Sugar.")

Mitch McConnell freezes more than once

Sometimes, seeing people in power struggle through incredibly uncomfortable moments only makes the rest of us laugh: Take the senators who quoted Taylor Swift while seeming to never have heard any of her songs before. That's hilarious, but sometimes, uncomfortable moments leave even the most cynical person just feeling sad.

That's what happened with Kentucky's Mitch McConnell twice in 2023. In the first incident, he was escorted away from cameras after seeming to lose his ability to speak, and although he later returned and claimed he was fine, The New York Times spoke with another senator — and medical doctor — John Barrasso. He had been on hand at the time, and said, "I was concerned when he fell and hit his head a number of months ago and was hospitalized." He suggested McConnell was, in fact, fine, and continued, "And he has made a remarkable recovery."

A similar incident happened again in August, and after being asked about his plans to run for reelection, an aide had to step in to ask for the question to be repeated, and then to stand beside him until the episode apparently passed. In October, he appeared on an episode of "Face the Nation," and after saying that yes, he was fine, he refused to answer further questions about his health. Bottom line? Political views aside, no one wants to think about getting older.

Markwayne Mullin wanted to throw down with a Teamster

There's a time and a place for fighting. Marvel movies, for instance, or anything with Jason Statham. On the floor of the Senate? Not so much... unless, that is, you're Oklahoma's Markwayne Mullin — who, incidentally, is an ex-MMA fighter. In late 2023, a bizarre scene unfolded as he read from a prepared statement that called International Brotherhood of Teamsters Sean O'Brien out on a lot of things: "Pretends like he's self-made," Mullin began. "What a clown. Fraud. Always has been, always will be." That descended into an invitation to settle things once and for all: O'Brien accepted and exchanged some "Stand your butt up then!" back-and-forth with the senator.

Bernie Sanders intervened like the most disappointed geometry teacher ever, and after reminding Mullin that he was, in fact, a senator, pointed out that it was bizarre behavior like that which was responsible for America's ever-dwindling faith in their government. Fingers were pointed, threats were made, Sanders completely failed to get the room under control, and afterward, the response was, well ... not as one might expect.

The Associated Press reported that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that keeping his party's senators from trying to turn the Capitol into a wrestling ring wasn't part of his job description, while North Dakota's Kevin Cramer volunteered, "It's a dynamic place." Mullin later claimed that it would all just be better if that's the way things were still done, saying (in an interview on CNN) that he had no regrets.

The Senate has no idea what Facebook is

Remember that time Great-GrandMeeMaw got a laptop, and asked you to sit down and show her how to get on "the internets" so she could send "the electronic mails" to her friends in Florida, who will later tell her that it's even better to get on "the FaceZooms"? That's kind of the same vibe that was given off throughout a five-hour hearing that saw all the members of the Senate grilling Mark Zuckerberg on what was, in theory, about privacy concerns. 

It ended up being about a lot of other things, too, because apparently, there were a lot of people who were pretty clueless about what Facebook is. Florida's Bill Nelson was very confused about why he would get ads for chocolate after posting about chocolate, but he was still ahead of Utah's Orrin Hatch, who wanted to know what Facebook's business was built on, if not subscriptions. (Yes, Zuckerberg confirmed, that's the ads.) Missouri's Roy Blunt, meanwhile, was proud of having his "Facebook address" on his business cards. Brian Schatz of Hawaii? He wanted to know if Facebook had his WhatsApp emails, which aren't even a thing.

Vox suggested that while there were some valid points that were made and questions asked that really needed answers, the whole thing was overshadowed by a complete lack of cohesiveness and questions that any congressional intern would have been able to answer. Instead of looking like they were looking out for people, they just looked, well, out of touch.

Dianne Feinstein's unexpected speech

What was the problem with Dianne Feinstein's speech? She wasn't supposed to give one: They were in the middle of voting when she started to give a speech in support of a defense bill and had to be told by two other people that it was only time to vote, and she just needed to say, "Aye."

NBC News later reported that her office stated she had been distracted by the chaotic floor that day, and hadn't heard the call to move from statements to voting on the matter of a $823 billion military budget. Acceptable and understandable, or an excuse? No one wants to think about the consequences of getting older, but as CBS pointed out, she was 89 years old when she was forced to step away from the Senate for three months while recovering from shingles and complications that included encephalitis (which can result in things like memory loss).

Coverage of the incident also brought up the question of whether or not she was capable of continuing in her position, and it was also announced that she planned on retiring at the end of her term. As a side note — and, in all fairness — Feinstein's uncomfortable moment isn't only a reflection on her. According to the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of putting maximum age limits in place for elected officials and judges.

Joe Biden's questionable kiss

One of Joe Biden's biggest problems is one that he's never done himself any favors with. Accusations of unwanted touching have circulated for a long time, and it has — of course — even been noticed by international media. And accusations are bad enough when the woman in question is an adult. When it's a child? That's wading way beyond yikes territory, and it's sort of what happened in 2015 when then-Vice President Joe Biden whispered in the ear of a 13-year-old girl before leaning in for a kiss during a Senate swearing-in ceremony.

The girl in question was the daughter of Delaware Senator Chris Coons, and when video and still images of the encounter went viral in 2019, Coons said again (via the Associated Press) that his children have always known Biden, and thought of him as a grandfatherly sort of figure.

At the time, Coons laughed the whole thing off, telling CNN, "No, Chris [Wallace], she doesn't think the vice president is creepy." In fact, he added that his daughter was taking her 15 minutes of fame in stride: "I think she's pleasantly surprised that more people have heard of her than have heard of me." Still, it didn't do anyone any favors, and when Biden released a statement in 2019 saying that he had never acted inappropriately with women, well, it was just one more problem in a wildly problematic election.

Throwing a snowball in the Senate to dispute global warming

Oh, the heady, innocent times that were 2015, a year that seems to be — at exactly the same time — both just last year, and about 75 years ago. That's also when Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe decided that the best way to dispute climate scientists who were saying that 2014 was the hottest year on record was to bring a snowball into the Senate, and then throw it. And honestly? The sound it makes when it hits the floor and the complete look of disappointed pride on his face make this one toe the line between uncomfortable and uncomfortably hilarious.

Inhofe claimed that the mere presence of the snowball proved that it was not, as climate science would say, hot outside, but cold ... and let's also stress that this was in February. A Democratic senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, went on to say (via CNN) that he "want[ed] to respond to the presentation by one of the Republican senators suggesting that the continued existence of snow disapproves climate change," but it's unclear whether or not that was before or after the (one imagines) collective sound of foreheads hitting desks.

Three years later, Mother Jones looked back on the incident and said not only was it weird then, but it hadn't aged well. Temperatures had continued to rise, and denial continued, too: Snowballs, after all, had continued to exist ... at least, sometimes.

His co-workers heckle George Santos

Keeping up with the latest antics of George Santos is both more difficult and more entertaining (in a burning building, aren't-those-flames-pretty sort of way) than keeping up with literally any of the Kardashians, and here's the thing: He sows some ridiculous chaos in his wake. In 2023, Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy found a loophole that prevented him from forcing other Republican lawmakers to actually take a stand against Santos, and instead, made him someone else's problem by handing him off to the House Ethics Committee.

That led to some absolutely priceless footage shot on the steps of the Capitol, which features Santos trying to talk to a reporter while being heckled by other congressmen. New York Democrat Jamal Bowman led the charge, and did Marjorie Taylor Greene get involved? Of course she did, leading to CNN's snickering description of this version of Congress as "A well-oiled machine."

It's hard to tell which part of the clip is the most uncomfortable, especially considering George Santos's claims — and lies — took center stage in the international media to add a few more brush strokes to the picture that paints American politics as ultra-chaotic. Just a few months prior, Santos was interrogated by Piers Morgan and doubled down on some of his stories, while explaining away others. Who's more yikes here? It's hard to tell.

Ted Cruz reads Green Eggs and Ham

Obamacare was one of the hot-button topics back in 2013, and it's entirely possible that more people are familiar with Ted Cruz's 21-hour marathon speech than they are with the actual contents of Obamacare. Outtakes from the speech famously include thoughts on the importance of a good pair of shoes, and — of course — a reading of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham." The idea was that it was a bedtime story for his daughters, but let's talk about why that was a weird choice, with help from New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

Schumer explained at a conference following the stunt (via NBC News) that there was something deeply flawed about the whole thing: "I don't know if he read it. Because 'Green Eggs and Ham' has a moral: don't criticize something, don't reject something until you actually try it." Whoops! Others weighed in, too, with even a Kansas State University professor and Seuss biographer saying that what he was reading was pretty much precisely the opposite of the message he was trying to spread.

Should federal lawmakers be able to grasp the basic meaning of a children's book that famously includes less than 50 unique words? Probably. Dartmouth University professor Donald Pease also chimed in, saying, "Dr. Seuss would find the Senate and the Congress much in need of reading and understanding his entire corpus of children's books." Perhaps Cruz later asked a toddler to translate: He ultimately voted in favor of the thing he'd spent 21 hours protesting.