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A sensitive situation or controversial issue that is difficult to handle and thus gets passed from one person to the next (like a potato that is too hot to hold). The political candidate knew the issue was a hot potato, so he deferred to his chief of staff, who directed questions to the committee chairperson.
A problem so controversial and sensitive that it is risky to deal with. For example, Gun control is a political hot potato. This term, dating from the mid-1800s, alludes to the only slightly older expression drop like a hot potato, meaning "to abandon something or someone quickly" (lest one be burned). The idiom alludes to the fact that cooked potatoes retain considerable heat because they contain a lot of water.
a hot potato
COMMON If a subject or problem is a hot potato, it is very difficult to deal with, especially because it is something that people argue about a lot. When she is faced with a political hot potato such tightening the gun laws, she is not afraid to give her opinion. Pricing policy is another hot potato.
a hot poˈtato(informal) a very sensitive matter that is difficult or embarrassing to deal with: His resignation is a political hot potato.
n. a difficult problem. I sure don’t want to have to deal with that hot potato.