NEW YORK (Reuters) - How do you keep a leader as verbally gaffe-prone as U.S. President George W. Bush from making even more slips of the tongue?
When Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, the White House inadvertently showed exactly how — with a phonetic pronunciation guide on the teleprompter to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.
The White House was left scrambling to explain after a marked-up draft of Bush’s speech popped up briefly on the U.N. Web site as he delivered his remarks, giving a rare glimpse of the special guidance he gets for major addresses.
It included phonetic spellings for French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sar-KO-zee), a friend, and Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe (moo-GAH-bee), a target of U.S. human rights criticism.
Pronunciations were also provided for Kyrgyzstan (KEYR-geez-stan), Mauritania (moor-EH-tain-ee-a) and the Zimbabwe capital Harare (hah-RAR-ray).
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the draft, labelled the 20th version and complete with typos and speechwriters’ cellphone numbers, had been turned over in advance to help U.N. interpreters who must simultaneously translate leaders’ speeches into several languages.
Bush’s text also had to be loaded onto a teleprompter to appear on screens in front of the podium as he spoke.
“There was an error made,” Perino told reporters. “I don’t know how the draft of the speech that was not final was posted but it was and it was taken back.”
“Anyone giving a major speech or delivering a broadcast, like on the morning and nightly network news, has phonetics for cues just for the possibility they’re needed,” she later explained.
Bush is no stranger to the occasional faux pas, and often jokes about his habit of mangling the English language.
One of his highest-profile gaffes came in May when, at a welcoming ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II, he nearly placed her in the 18th century.
At a speech during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney earlier this month, Bush seemed to confuse the organization with OPEC and spoke of Austrian troops in Iraq when he meant to say Australian.