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Top 10 Most Controversial Americans Abroad

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Craig Butler. Big, outspoken personalities tend to attract controversy – as the people on this list can attest. For this list, we're looking at Americans who, however they may be perceived at home, tend to generate controversy among people from other countries. Welcome to, and today we're counting down the Top 10 Most Controversial Americans Abroad. Special thanks to our users akt, SlashinatorZ and Daniel Fong for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Craig Butler.

Big, outspoken personalities tend to attract controversy – as the people on this list can attest. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Controversial Americans Abroad.

For this list, we're looking at Americans who, however they may be perceived at home, tend to generate controversy among people from other countries.

#10: Sarah Palin (1964-)

One of the leading lights of the Tea Party movement, Palin's expertise is not really evident to many overseas. After all, Palin has confused North Korea with South Korea, indicated that merely living in Alaska is enough to make her knowledgeable about neighboring Russia and does not believe global warming is man-made. Her fundamentalist beliefs also polarize those in other countries – much as they do in America.

#9: Kanye West (1977-)

Recording superstar Kanye West isn't exactly known for being humble – and that outsized ego costs him fans abroad as well as at home. From interrupting Taylor Swift in the middle of an acceptance speech to banning critics after his fashion line got bad reviews, West strikes some as insufferable – if undeniably talented. But talent only goes so far, and when West played a private gig for a relative of Kazakhstan's notoriously dictatorial president, many felt he crossed an important line.

#8: Michael Moore (1954-)

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore likes nothing more than to be a gadfly – a pose which has earned him both accolades and condemnation. Many in the international community find him arrogant, dispensing advice about ousting English and Italian leaders and getting his facts wrong about South Korean citizens’ actions concerning the Iraq war. Some accuse him of intellectual dishonesty and emotional manipulation – the same kind of criticism many U.S. critics have leveled against him.

#7: Bernard Madoff (1938-)

Bernie Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme robbed investors of billions of dollars and ruined lives. Among those most deeply affected were Spain’s Banco Santander, Austria’s Bank Medici, the Netherlands’ Fortis and France’s Natixis; and one source estimates that half of the amount lost by investors came from non-U.S. sources. With that kind of crushing effect on the international scene, is it any wonder Madoff’s name draws curses in many different languages?

#6: Donald Trump (1946-)

You don’t get to be a billionaire businessman by being shy and retiring, so it’s no surprise that Donald Trump's vocal outbursts offend many. His perceived egotism also doesn’t always play well abroad; in fact, a whole film, “You’ve Been Trumped,” was even made about Trump’s insistence on creating a $150 million golf course in Scotland, despite massive opposition from local residents, politicians and environmentalists. Some could say that’s par for the course when dealing with The Donald.

#5: Edward Snowden (1983-)

Edward Snowden’s leaking of thousands of classified documents makes him a hero to some in the U.S. and a traitor to others. Abroad, the view of him is largely much more favorable than it is in America; but since his actions revealed complicity in invasive surveillance programs by many European governments, he’s not always a popular figure, especially with international intelligence communities.

#4: Lance Armstrong (1971-)

Cyclist Lance Armstrong's reputation took a severe trashing when it was revealed that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. He ended up being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and was placed under a lifetime ban from competitive cycling. Armstrong's vilification of his critics didn't earn him any fans, and his halfhearted and belated admission that he did use drugs did little to mollify opponents either.

#3: Harry S. Truman (1884-72)
33rd President of the United States

President Richard Nixon was removed from office for the Watergate scandal, but he brokered many foreign affairs successes, including opening up relations with China. And to many in other countries, President Harry S. Truman would have been a more likely candidate for impeachment. As the only national leader to have allowed the use of atomic weapons, which caused massive death and destruction, he is viewed by many in the global community as something approaching a war criminal.

#2: George W. Bush (1946-)
43rd President of the United States

While President Barack Obama certainly has many detractors and very vocal critics abroad, his predecessor George W. Bush is generally held in lower regard. Bush's "good old boy" persona, which resonated deeply with many Americans, made him come across as ignorant and naïve to many in other countries. His decision to invade Iraq, based on manufactured and incorrect information concerning weapons of mass destruction, was viewed as a disastrous act of imperialism by many – and cost him serious political capital in the foreign market.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable – or in this case dishonorable – mentions:
- Dennis Rodman (1961-)
- Fred Phelps (1929-2014)
Leader of Westboro Baptist Church

#1: Dick Cheney (1941-)

George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz were among the architects of America's controversial invasion of Iraq, but Vice President Dick Cheney is generally considered the real force behind the plan. Cheney's war-hawk attitude and perceived willingness to disregard human life in pursuit of political and nationalistic goals make him a lightning rod for criticism and controversy.

Do you agree with our choices? What other outstanding controversial Americans should we have put on this list? For more enthralling top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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