Middle Finger Moments in Politics

Clinton was flipped off in West Virginia, but she certainly wasn't the first

Protesters gesture and yell as Hillary Clinton pulls away from a stop in Williamson, W. Va., on Monday. Several dozen protesters stood in the rain to express their displeasure at her visit to coal country. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While campaigning in West Virginia, Hillary Clinton didn't receive the warmest welcome. Among the protesters angry about her position on cutting coal use were at least two who gave the so-called "scooby van" the middle finger.  

This isn't the first time "the bird" has figured prominently in American politics. Even more surprising is the gesture's history as an obscene insult reaches back to ancient Greece, where the philosopher Diogenes is said to have flipped off the politician and statesman Demosthenes (though not to his face).

One of the oldest political middle fingers for which photographic evidence exists is an iconic image of then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller giving the middle digit to young hecklers at Binghamton University in New York. Bob Dole is in the background.

For a fresher flip, we turn to Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner, where CNN took some hits from the night's jokemaster-in-chief, President Barack Obama, and comedian Larry Wilmore. “CNN is here tonight. I’ve been watching CNN a long time,” Wilmore said . “Yep. Used to watch it back when it was a news network. I did.”  

But this barb aimed at Don Lemon earned the bird (a reaction CNN endorsed ): “I should say some of America’s finest black journalists are here tonight. Don Lemon’s here, too. Hey, Don, how’s it going? Alleged journalist Don Lemon, everybody.”

After a second sexting scandal doomed former Rep. Anthony Weiner's return to politics in the New York mayoral race, he saluted the cameras on his way out of campaign headquarters on election night.

Rand Paul also found a non-verbal expression for his displeasure with being knocked off the GOP debate main stage in January.

Sometimes a good bait and switch says it all.  

This protester's confrontation with Ted Cruz on Tuesday probably couldn't have been more insulting even if he had flipped off Cruz.  

Some of Cruz's biggest haters admitted sympathy for him after the man asked for a handshake, shouted "too slow," pulled his hand away, and called Cruz a "fish monster" — all on the same day Cruz would lose Indiana and end his White House bid.  


Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.