Top U.N. General Assembly Moments and Shockers

The U.N. General Assembly is a high-minded affair designed to unite the world, but it produces some good theater, too.

15 photos
1963 President John F. Kennedy talks with U.N. Secretary-General U Thant during a luncheon at the United Nations in New York, Sept. 20, 1963. Kennedy attended the luncheon following what is now known as his final speech to the U.N. General Assembly Hall where he acknowledged that tension between the U.S and the Soviet Union was at an all time high.
2013 An open mic caught President Barack Obama in a humorous, unguarded moment at the U.N. After saying that he smokes from time to time, U.N. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiail asked the President if he has stopped smoking. Obama's reply? “I haven't had a cigarette in 6 years...that's because I'm scared of my wife," Obama told him with a grin.
2012 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel shows an illustration as he describes his concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions during his address to the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Netanyahu's use of a cartoon-like drawing of a bomb to convey a message over Iran's disputed nuclear program follows in a long and storied tradition of leaders and diplomats using props to make their points at the United Nations.
1974 Palestine's Yasser Arafat made history as the first person to address the U.N. General Assembly from a non-governmental organization. He also approached the podium wearing a gun in a holster and said "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."
2006 Bolivian president Evo Morales holds up a coca leaf as he addresses the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006.
1947 On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution for Palestine to be partitioned between Jews and Arabs, creating the Jewish state of Israel. This photo shows David Ben Gurion presenting the Jewish Agency case before UNSCOP July 5, 1947 in Jerusalem.
1960 Cuban President Fidel Castro gives a four and half hour speech at the General Assembly. Usually, speeches are around 15 minutes each.
1960 Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev pounded his fist and right shoe on his desk at the General Assembly during a debate.
1973 Uganda's military leader, Idi Amin Dada, praised British Prime Minister Edward Heath by comparing him to Hitler.
2003 When addressing the General Assembly, President George W. Bush said the U.N. must act with the U.S. against Saddam Hussein or risk facing "irrelevance."
2003 Then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held up a vial that he said could contain anthrax when asking the U.N. General Assembly to support the Iraqi invasion. He later said that his description of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist was "painful." The presentation "will always be a part of my record," he told Barbara Walters.
2006 Cuba's delegation stood up and walked out of the General Assembly during President George W. Bush's address where he called on UN to promote free speech, free elections and free assembly on the island nation.
2006 Just one day after President George W. Bush made his comments about Cuba, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Bush "the devil."
2009 Libya's Mommar Gaddafi tries to pitch a traditional Bedouin tent to stay in during the General Assembly. Originally, he planned to erect the tent on Libyan-owned land in suburban New Jersey but, somehow, the tent ended up on Donald Trump's estate in White Plains, N.Y.
2012 Former President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2012 appearance at the U.N. General Assembly happened to fall on Yom Kippur. The oversight -- Ahmadinejad has questioned whether the Holocaust happened -- led to outrage and protests outside of the U.N. headquarters in New York.
Contact Us