What is it: Any malady feigned to avoid an awkward political situation; also called diplomatic illness. It is unrelated to diplomatic immunity.
Who has had it: Boris Yeltsin (former president, Russia) had repeated bouts of mystery “heart trouble” that absented him from several tense events. Critics blamed diplomatic flu; others believed it was genuine ill health caused by heavy drinking. Henry Kissinger (diplomat, United States) caught diplomatic flu in Pakistan in 1971 and secretly travelled to China ahead of a visit by Richard Nixon.
Who hasn’t: Allen West (former Republican congressman, Florida) accused Hillary Clinton (former secretary of state, United States) of having “Benghazi flu” when she cancelled a Capitol Hill hearing due to a concussion. She later presented medical evidence of the injury.
Who had the worst case: Due to appear at the closing ceremony of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, John F. Kennedy (former president, United States) cancelled with a sniffle. The “cold” was the Cuban Missile Crisis.
When was the first outbreak: In England, “diplomatic gout” dates back to at least the sixteenth century. Lorenzo Campeggio (last cardinal protector, England) came down with it on his way to meet Cardinal Wolsey (statesman, England) when King Henry VIII announced his divorce.
The real thing: Woodrow Wilson (former president, United States) contracted Spanish flu in 1919 at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Donald Trump (president, United States) insisted a G7 summit in 2020 be in Washington. Angela Merkel (chancellor, Germany) refused to attend due to the health risk of COVID-19. The summit was rescheduled.