Gaffe by Tweet: Top 10 Social-Media Slip-Ups

Sooner or later, anything trendy makes its way to the world of politics. This year, it's been the advent of the microblog. Hundreds of politicians have flocked to the microblogging services like Facebook and Twitter over the past few months, heralding it's ability to help them keep in touch with folks back home. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger even dropped by Twitter's headquarters last month to praise it for the services the site offers politicians to communicate with constituents. But for every pol that's mastered the art of the status update, others (including Schwarzenegger) have watched it backfire, earning them far more unflattering press than they bargained for. We bring you the 10 biggest social-media gaffes we’ve seen from politicos this year—at least so far.

1. Palin's death panels: The former Alaska governor posted a short note in late July opposing President Obama's plan for health-care reform. "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel,' " she wrote. "Such a system is downright evil." She'd be right, except for the fact that the charge was completely made up and quickly debunked. Palin quickly shifted tone, and in a follow-up post left out the fictional catch phrase.

2. Making some serious cuts: California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger puzzled many with a July 22 video he posted on Twitter thanking followers for suggestions for state budget cuts that they had sent in. It was innocent enough, but what raised eyebrows was an enormous knife the gov held to emphasize─and literalize─the cutting theme. Called out at a press conference for questionable judgment, he defended himself. "You sent someone a little bit more interesting, and who has a little bit more fun with the whole thing─not have fun making the cuts, they sadden me, but fun with the job itself."

3. Grassley ain't no nail: When Sen. Charles Grassley took issue with President Barack Obama traveling this summer, he took his beef to Twitter. "Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us "time to deliver" on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND," he tweeted. Several minutes later, he elaborated: "When you are a "hammer" u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL." It's unclear what was more surprising: the senator's unfiltered anger, or the fact that he could go head to head in textspeak with any middle-schooler.

4. Poor Pete: Post-election protests and chaos in Iran helped Twitter to prove itself an effective tool for making political points. Rep. Pete Hoekstra saw an opening for comparison and wrote about it on Twitter. "Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House," he wrote. Rather than garner sympathy, Hoekstra's tweet brought him ridicule─from Jon Stewart to dozens of fellow Twitterers, who poked fun at the congressman for being out of touch and self important.

5. Gingrich v. Sotomayor: A day after Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, former House speaker Newt Gingrich didn't hold back what he thought of her, calling her via tweet a racist and suggesting she withdraw. The line was met with predicable outrage, after which Gingrich apologized for using the R word, saying that his initial reaction was "too strong and direct."

6. Premature enunciation: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wanted maximum exposure to announce he'd be running for the Senate on May 12. But he underestimated the reach of Twitter several hours before. In the wee hours of the morning, he posted a tweet proclaiming that he'd be "announcing I'm running at 12 ... all of the legislative conservative caucus and other senators representatives there endorsing me ... time to rock and roll!" After realizing his mistake, he removed the tweet, and to build back anticipation, held his announcement for another three weeks.

7. Caught lunching on record: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of Congress's most prolific Twitter users, inadvertently got her colleague Michael Bennet of Colorado in some trouble with liberal Denver blogger David Sirota. Sirota had been trying to snag an interview with the senator for a talk show he was guest-hosting, but was told Bennet was too busy. As a result, he wasn't too happy when he saw tweets from McCaskill (“Lunch w/ Lily in the Senate dining room. Sen. Bennet at large table surrounded by journalists. Don’t know whether to say congrats or try and save him.”) showing that Bennet was with other Washington reporters in the Senate dining room.

8. Torpedoed defection: Jeff Frederick, chair of the Virginia Republican Party and a member of the House of Delegates, was close to convincing a Democratic state senator to caucus with the Republicans, which would have upset the chamber's balance of power. But he celebrated prematurely via Twitter. "Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power sharing underway." Democrat legislators reportedly saw the tweet and convinced the wavering senator to stay, essentially undercutting the coup. In a message to The National Review, House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith denied that Twitter had been responsible, but Frederick took the post down.

9. A staffer loses his wings: Several legislators live-tweeted President Barack Obama’s Feb. 24 speech to a joint session of Congress. One was Rep. Joe Barton, but the Texas Republican apparently had a staffer posting for him. Midspeech, Barton's feed lit up with a programming alternative. "Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren’t going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour." A few minutes later, another post from either the congressman or a berated staffer back pedaled. “Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer.” Both tweets have since been deleted.

10. Pulling a Geraldo: Pete Hoekstra (yes, the same Pete Hoekstra from No. 4), also got in trouble for tweets delivered while traveling in Iraq in February, except this time, it was his own security he put in jeopardy. Military personnel had advised not revealing geographic details because of security concerns, but Hoekstra offered several updates giving specific locations and travel plans. "Moved into green zone by helicopter Iraqi flag now over palace. Headed to new US embassy." In response to a minor backlash [UPDATE: a previous version of this story stated an inaccurate response], a spokesman for Hoekstra countered that the congressman was "fully aware of security issues when traveling abroad,“ but just wanted to keep his constituents in the loop.

Other political social media gaffes we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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