LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  The Mayor of London Boris Johnson wears a traditional headdress during a visit to the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, a major new Hindu temple being built in Kingsbury on May 28, 2014 in London, England.  The Mayor met with religious and community leaders and toured the new complex. The temple, set to fully open in August, has cost ?20 million to build, all of the money being raised by the community and through the sale of its previous site in Golders Green, which is being developed for housing.  (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
Rob Stothard/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: The Mayor of London Boris Johnson wears a traditional headdress during a visit to the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, a major new Hindu temple being built in Kingsbury on May 28, 2014 in London, England. The Mayor met with religious and community leaders and toured the new complex. The temple, set to fully open in August, has cost ?20 million to build, all of the money being raised by the community and through the sale of its previous site in Golders Green, which is being developed for housing. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:07
Who is Boris Johnson?
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray stands outside parliament with EU and Union Flags and a placard that reads "Brexit: is it worth it?" as he protests in Parliament Square in London on October 9, 2018. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray stands outside parliament with EU and Union Flags and a placard that reads "Brexit: is it worth it?" as he protests in Parliament Square in London on October 9, 2018. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:28
What's next for Brexit?
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech outside 10 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May says Cabinet agrees draft Brexit deal with European Union after 'impassioned' debate. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/AP
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech outside 10 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May says Cabinet agrees draft Brexit deal with European Union after 'impassioned' debate. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Now playing
03:21
Theresa May: Cabinet backs Brexit draft deal
Reuters
Now playing
02:11
Theresa May begins speech with dance
SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 20:  British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media at the conclusion of the summit of leaders of the European Union on September 20, 2018 in Salzburg, Austria. Earlier in the day European Council President Donald Tusk expressed doubt over the United Kingdom's proposal regarding its Brexit negotiations.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 20: British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media at the conclusion of the summit of leaders of the European Union on September 20, 2018 in Salzburg, Austria. Earlier in the day European Council President Donald Tusk expressed doubt over the United Kingdom's proposal regarding its Brexit negotiations. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:41
Theresa May: 'We are at an impasse'
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: British Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement on Brexit negotiations with the European Union at Number 10 Downing Street on September 21, 2018 in London, England. Mrs May reiterated that a no-deal Brexit is better than a bad deal in a speech to the British people after the EU rejected her Chequers Plan for leaving the European Union. She said the UK is at an impasse with the EU and the two big issues are trade and Ireland. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: British Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement on Brexit negotiations with the European Union at Number 10 Downing Street on September 21, 2018 in London, England. Mrs May reiterated that a no-deal Brexit is better than a bad deal in a speech to the British people after the EU rejected her Chequers Plan for leaving the European Union. She said the UK is at an impasse with the EU and the two big issues are trade and Ireland. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:37
Theresa May demands 'respect' from EU
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 19, 2017 ahead of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on April 18 for a snap election on June 8, in a shock move as she seeks to bolster her position before tough talks on leaving the EU. MPs are set to vote on the motion following Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE        (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 19, 2017 ahead of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons. British Prime Minister Theresa May called on April 18 for a snap election on June 8, in a shock move as she seeks to bolster her position before tough talks on leaving the EU. MPs are set to vote on the motion following Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:14
Theresa May: What you need to know
theresa may brexit speech_00000000.jpg
Bowtie TV
theresa may brexit speech_00000000.jpg
Now playing
03:16
UK triggers Article 50 to begin Brexit
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18:  Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to the nation in Downing Street on April 18, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has called a general election for the United Kingdom to be held on June 8, the last election was held in 2015 with a Conservative party majority win.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18: Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to the nation in Downing Street on April 18, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has called a general election for the United Kingdom to be held on June 8, the last election was held in 2015 with a Conservative party majority win. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Now playing
06:53
UK PM calls for general election: Full speech
Now playing
00:50
May's comment brings laughs to Parliament
theresa may brexit speech_00010529.jpg
Bowtie TV
theresa may brexit speech_00010529.jpg
Now playing
02:59
May: It's time to build a stronger Britain
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27:  British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:04
British PM reveals why Trump held her hand
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017, following the terror incident in Parliament earlier today.
Britain will not change its terrorism threat level despite an attack in London on Wednesday which left three people and the assailant dead, Prime Minister Theresa May said. Three people were killed in a "terrorist" attack in the heart of London Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians on a bridge, then stabbed a police officer outside parliament before being shot dead. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / RICHARD POHLE        (Photo credit should read RICHARD POHLE/AFP/Getty Images)
RICHARD POHLE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017, following the terror incident in Parliament earlier today. Britain will not change its terrorism threat level despite an attack in London on Wednesday which left three people and the assailant dead, Prime Minister Theresa May said. Three people were killed in a "terrorist" attack in the heart of London Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians on a bridge, then stabbed a police officer outside parliament before being shot dead. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / RICHARD POHLE (Photo credit should read RICHARD POHLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:48
Theresa May: UK will never give in to terror
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street on January 24, 2017 in London, England. British Supreme Court judges have today ruled by a majority of 8 to 3 that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street on January 24, 2017 in London, England. British Supreme Court judges have today ruled by a majority of 8 to 3 that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:37
Theresa May faces opposition over Trump
UK Prime Minister visits tomb of unknown solider_00000720.jpg
CNN
UK Prime Minister visits tomb of unknown solider_00000720.jpg
Now playing
01:09
UK Prime Minister visits Arlington cemetery
UK PM Theresa May and President Trump at a press conference
CNN
UK PM Theresa May and President Trump at a press conference
Now playing
02:33
May on special relationship, Trump on torture

Story highlights

Boris Johnson becomes new UK Foreign Secretary

He has a history of insulting foreign leaders and overseas gaffes

(CNN) —  

He’s called Africans “piccaninnies” and Papua New Guineans “cannibals,” and once referred to Hillary Clinton as a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”

On a trip to Tokyo in 2015 he wiped out a 10-year-old schoolboy during a game of touch rugby, and in May he won a £1,000 prize for a poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having sex with a goat.

Meet the UK’s new Foreign Secretary, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, also known as “BoJo.”

New British Prime Minister Theresa May takes office

From wilderness to the Cabinet

Johnson’s career was believed to be largely over in the wake of the extended political bloodletting that followed the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

He had been seen as the frontrunner to succeed (now former) Prime Minister David Cameron. However, days after Cameron’s resignation, Johnson dramatically dropped out.

Now, just two weeks later, he’s back.

Theresa May’s decision to appoint Johnson – who actively campaigned for her rival to the Conservative Party leadership – to the plum role of Foreign Secretary, was greeted with shock, no small amount of amusement and, in some quarters, horror, given Johnson’s history of no-holds-barred criticism of foreign leaders and gaffes during trips abroad.

’Cannibalism and chief-killing’

A lot of Johnson’s most controversial comments have been made in his column for the Daily Telegraph, the UK’s leading right-wing broadsheet.

In a 2002 piece on then PM Tony Blair’s trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Johnson wrote: “No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

He apologized for that piece, but echoed its racist tone in a 2006 column about Papua New Guinea that described the country’s citizens as prone to “cannibalism and chief-killing.”

World leaders were fair game for Johnson’s pen as well. He compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to “Dobby the House Elf” from “Harry Potter,” though he added that Putin, unlike the children’s film character, is also “a ruthless and manipulative tyrant.”

He’s also insulted practically every major U.S. politician of the last decade, including President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, and both presumptive presidential candidates: Clinton and Donald Trump.

Wiff-waff and rugby

While the exact negotiations that led to Johnson’s dramatic return to front line British politics are still unclear, he does have diplomatic and foreign experience, both in his former career as Brussels correspondent for the Times of London, and as mayor of the UK capital.

His new boss, May, didn’t always seem that impressed with Johnson’s diplomatic skills, however. Last month she was dismissive of his experience “negotiating in Europe.”

“I seem to remember last time he did a deal with the Germans, he came back with three nearly new water cannon,” she told reporters, referring to a deal Johnson made as Mayor of London (the cannon were never used).

Nor did Johnson particularly impress foreign leaders during his tenure at City Hall. Chinese diplomats were reportedly less than impressed when Johnson declared at the 2008 Beijing Olympics that ping pong was “invented on the dining tables of England.”

Chinese commentators were also less than impressed when Johnson appeared on stage at the 2008 closing ceremony with his jacket unbuttoned, stood with his hand in his pockets, and took the Olympic Flag with one hand.

And then of course, there’s Toki Seliguchi.

London Mayor Boris Johnson in Japan.
AFP/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
London Mayor Boris Johnson in Japan.

During a trade visit to Japan, Johnson – in a playful touch rugby game – sent the boy crashing to the floor.

“We have just played a game of street rugby with a bunch of kids and I accidentally flattened a 10-year-old, on TV unfortunately,” Johnson said afterward.

“But he bounced back, he put it behind him, the smile returned rapidly to his face.”

It could almost be a metaphor for Johnson’s political career.