Columbus gets a lot of flak for mistaking the Americas for India, but c’mon, the guy couldn’t exactly consult GPS and Google. US politicians and other modern-day notables can’t claim the same. Here are some recent geographical mistakes by public figures. A list with more details and examples follows the map.
Mobile users: check out our map on your desktop; the list has all the same info.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
A map of the world according to US public figures (scroll over the blue parts to see some world-class goofs).
The Dunce: MSNBC's Touré
The Mistake: The location of Kenya.
What Happened: In the wake of the Westgate Mall shooting in Nairobi, Kenya, MSNBC’s Touré claimed that “Kenya is located on the northern coast of Africa." Kenya is actually in East Africa. Whoops.
The Dunce: CNN
The Mistake: The location of Tripoli
What Happened: Shortly after Libyan rebels took the capital of Tripoli in August 2011, CNN began offering breaking news updates. One catch: they mistakenly showed a map of Tripoli, Lebanon instead.
The Dunce: CNN
The Mistake: A picture of the Egyptian flag
What Happened: They may have similar colors, but in a segment on the military coup in Egypt, CNN flashed onscreen the Syrian flag, not the Egyptian one.
The Dunce: Fox News
The Mistake: Misplacing Egypt
What Happened: In a now infamous geo-goof from 2009, Fox News broadcast an image labeling Iraq as Egypt. This was in 2009, when American military forces were still in the country.
The Dunce: Mich. Representative Kerry Bentivolio
The Mistake:"The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Somalia..."
What Happened: Okay, okay. This was just a mispronunciation of American Samoa during an introduction for general speeches. These things happen. Maybe Representative Bentivolio just needed to take a sip of water from fellow Republican legislator Marco Rubio.
The Dunce: Former President Gerald Ford
The Mistake: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration."
What Happened: Following World War II, the Soviets had control of the Eastern Bloc for several decades. Ford's famous gaffe is widely thought to have cost him the 1976 election against Jimmy Carter.
The Dunce: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
The Mistake: "You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska."
What Happened: To be fair, Palin never said "I can see Alaska from my house," though it's been endlessly quoted that way. That line was actually Tina Fey's, from an SNL sketch. Technically, Palin was right: you can see Russia from Little Diomede, Alaska (as hilariously explored in this CNN video). However, Palin's never been to Little Diomede.
The Dunce: Senator John McCain
The Mistake: "We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid that it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."
What Happened: Leading up to the 2008 election, Senator John McCain went on Good Morning America to criticize President Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East. Contrary to his remarks, Iraq and Pakistan don't share a border.
The Dunce: Mitt Romney
The Mistake: "Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab World. It's their route to sea."
What Happened: After a conversation about a theoretical Iranian invasion of Israel, Mitt Romney's erroneous comment was famously refuted by several analysts, as well as every map of the region.
The Dunce: Former Vice President Dick Cheney
The Mistake: "We have refrained from making public pronouncements about Mr. Chavez...The people of Peru, I think, deserve better."
What Happened: At a foreign policy speech in Texas, Cheney began opining on the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. However, when attempting to show solidarity with the Venezuelan people, he called them Peruvian.
The Dunce: George Bush
The Mistake: "Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease."
What Happened: From a news conference during an international trip in 2001. Seven years later, Sarah Palin would be accused of exactly the same mistake by Fox News' Carl Cameron: "She didn't understand...that Africa was a continent and not a country, and actually asked them...if South Africa wasn't just part of the country as opposed to a country in the continent."
The Dunce: President Barack Obama
The Mistake: "If we don't deepen our ports all along the Gulf—places like Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida, those ships will go someplace else."
What Happened: On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in August, Obama, while speaking about fixing the nation's infrastructure, compared the state of U.S. ports to the Panama Canal Expansion project. Unfortunately for Obama, all of these coastal cities are along the Atlantic Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico.
The Dunce: Thomas Friedman
The Mistake: The World is Flat
What Happened: The central thesis of Friedman's 2005 opus is that technology has allowed everyone to compete on economically equal footing across the globe. However, this has been refuted by several critics for as extreme over-generalization. Not only are there economic mountains, but austerity is forcing many nations into craters.
The Dunce: U.S. bloggers and Twitter users
The Mistake: Chechyna vs. the Czech Republic
What Happened: Following the announcement that the Boston Bombing suspects were from Chechnya, bloggers and tweeters in the U.S. began spouting vitriol about the Czech Republic. Petr Gandalovi?, the Czech Ambassador to the United States, had to issue a statement publicly clarifying the difference between the two locations for our electronic friends.