Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is the current president of Iceland, and the sixth to hold that office in the country’s history. His unabbreviated middle name is Thorlacius. His nephew, Jói Pé, is apparently a popular Icelandic rapper. And before his political career began, he was a historian, who was working on a sure-to-be riveting history of the Cod Wars.
I didn’t know any of that five minutes ago. Because until I copied-and-pasted his name into Google, the only thing I knew about President Jóhannesson was that he once said that he wanted to ban pineapple pizza from his entire country. Maybe people who aren’t me and don’t live Iceland have already forgotten about that strange aspirational policy—but Jóhannesson hasn’t, and now he seems to wish that he could take it back.
Jóhannesson might forever be connected with his least favorite pizza topping because of a silly comment he made during a visit to a local high school last February. A kid asked him what he thought about pineapple as a pizza topping, and the President said that he was “fundamentally opposed” to it, and that he would ban it if he could. That got everyone’s attention, possibly because another president who who lives, oh, 2,811 miles southwest of Reykjavik was using the word "ban" rather often at the time.
Jóhannesson quickly backtracked. He told MUNCHIES that it was “a tongue-in-cheek joke, or a joke attempt” and declined to comment further. “I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza,” he clarified on Facebook. “I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power […] For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”
The damage was done, though. Thinkpieces were distributed like $1 slices. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he “[stands] behind” the pizza topping. And even Sam Panopoulos, the then-82-year-old inventor of pineapple pizza, was dragged into the controversy. “He can have whatever he wants—I don't care," he told the CBC. “He can do whatever he wants as far as I'm concerned." (Panopoulos died in June 2017, hopefully at peace with himself and his contribution to world cuisine).
But during a recent interview with the CBC, Jóhannesson expressed remorse. “That's where the influence of this office sort of, yeah, got the better of me," he said. "I went a step too far." (Although he’s reconsidering what he said, he hasn’t changed his mind about pineapples on pizza, calling them “all sort of mushy.”)
The one thing he’s not budging on, though, is his recommendation that seafood should be everyone’s go-to topping. “Iceland are a nation of fisherfolk and, you know, if everyone put seafood on their pizzas, that would be a very nice thing to do," he said.
OK, but only if you tell us about the Cod Wars first.