Donald Trump was reportedly laughed at by delegates while addressing the United Nations General Assembly:

In one of the more remarkable moments in the history of the annual UN summit, the chamber broke out in spontaneous laughter at Trump’s claim that “in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country”.

Clearly taken aback, Trump said: “I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.”

Borger, J. (2018). Trump urges world to reject globalism in UN speech that draws mocking laughter. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/25/trump-united-nations-general-assembly-speech-globalism-america

I am not entirely familiar with UN protocol, but from what I gather this was rather uncommon and perhaps even a first. Is it? Has something similar ever happen before?

  • 3
    Probably a better/harder question would be if it happened to any US president (or even any US ambassador at UN) before.
    – Fizz
    Sep 26, 2018 at 0:23
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    Does youtube.com/watch?v=l4JhyHz3M5U qualify?
    – DJohnM
    Sep 26, 2018 at 3:56
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    That is excellent @DJohnM. However, I don't think it counts. Khrushchev is clearly trying to get a reaction, whereas Trump was not.
    – yannis
    Sep 26, 2018 at 7:48
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    @Will I deleted my original comment until I could post the source. It was from PBS. It was a passing statement at the beginning of the piece, where the anchor said someone "yelled something and laughed" - I misheard this as "except for the last." @ 22:31 pbs.org/newshour/show/… Sep 26, 2018 at 20:45
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    @ilkkachu No, YouTube was messing with me... Try paw.princeton.edu/article/…
    – DJohnM
    Sep 26, 2018 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


Yes, it has happened before. The following excerpt is from a France 24 article:

Light moments are exceedingly unusual in the UN General Assembly, which follows a strict protocol in with [sic] each world leader is escorted to the rostrum for an address on issues of the day.

In 2015, Zimbabwe's then 91-year-old strongman Robert Mugabe was met with laughter when he shouted "We are not gays!," part of his longstanding insistence that homosexuality is non-African.

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    Hard to see or hear any laugter in this video. Sep 27, 2018 at 9:21
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    @EricDuminil I can hear it with headphones on. It's faint and I doubt I could have heard it without them.
    – user22642
    Sep 27, 2018 at 16:13

It's not a first, but it's pretty darn rare for there to be unwanted laughter. But this is not a gathering of diplomats, but a gathering of leaders; put a bunch of type-A personalities used to getting their way in a room together, and stuff will inevitably happen.

American Presidents have used humor as a part of their speeches, but in those cases, they were clearly telegraphed laugh lines. The three big unintentional laughter lines in the last 15 years would be: Trump, Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez calling George W. Bush a 'devil' and 'tyrant'.


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