Jan 26 2008

More On The Romney Mystery Whisper – And A Second Whisper!

Published by at 9:54 am under 2008 Elections,All General Discussions

I have been having fun with the Romney Mystery Whisper in the post below, but as this story has unfolded I think it is more and more implausible. OK, there is no way the tie-mic picked up an earpiece (and yes, they come that small) but clearly what did happen was someone in the control room keyed in a microphone that was heard by some on stage. Specifically it was heard by Russert and Williams (as Williams notes himself):

With the benefit of an earpiece on stage, I distinctly heard what some viewers apparently heard. Someone said in a whisper, but audibly:

“He raised taxes…”

I remember looking around the stage with a start – scanning the faces of the candidates, trying to figure out who had just said that. Apparently, others heard it, too.

Look folks it seems to me that there has been a dirty little secret in politics and journalism (and please don’t tell me they don’t have them). Go listen to the whisper again. It is perfectly timed to start after Tim’s question and ends before Romney’s response – quite a coincidence, eh? I mean to have a mic accidentally opened and someone who can whisper an answer in the exact moment between the question and response on stage?

Moreover, as I stated below, the control room found the errant mic in a split second and turned it ‘off broadcast’ – at least. Here is some reasonable speculation: assume the media has allowed prompters through earpieces for years now and they control room controls those ‘backstage’ mics like they do all others. So when someone accidentally set the switch for the whisperer’s mic to go live (and we know that did happen) they also new in the span of a few seconds which mic to turn off since no more errant voices and words came through.

The control room knows which mic was on and broadcast because they shut it down quick. And you can tell Russert heard the whisper – he started to speak over Mitt’s response to try and cover it up any other sounds. Someone keyed on a backstage mic (I don’t recall any mics being in the audience except for the guy from the St Petersburg Times) and the fact MSNBC’s excuses keep changing radically and implausibly (it was initially a problem with Mitt’s mic) is another indication we have not really learned all there is to know about this. Who keyed off the errant mic and which mic did they key off?

One thing is for sure – MSNBC has eliminated the most popular theories. It was not someone whispering to Russert, and it was not Brian Williams.

Surprise Update: Someone found a second whisper, barely audible, and this time Mitt does respond directly to the whisper:

You can hear the same voice and this time the whispered word is “support”. I still say this is collusion between the media and the pols and the MSNBC sound mix was so badly set up that the backstage ‘prompter’ kept spilling through to broadcast. OK, one whisper is maybe a fluke – but not two and not with Mitt responding directly to both. This should be interesting to watch in a season where both the media and the pols are so much disliked. H/T from reader Jimmm33 at Huffington Post.

Addendum: For the technically naive I would not waste your time trying to see earpieces – they come quite small and invisible these days (see here, here and here). There could also be monitor speakers in the podiums or traveling wave-tube speakers in collars or ties. There are many ways to get some sound to the ears if the media and pols are working together.

15 responses so far

15 Responses to “More On The Romney Mystery Whisper – And A Second Whisper!”

  1. WWS says:

    I think you’ve made some good inferences on this. First, to everyone who thinks this is criticism of Romney, it isn’t – I have no doubt that every candidate on that stage and on the democrats side is doing the same thing. Too bad that Romney was up when the goof was made. This is about the duplicity of the broadcast media in trying to pretend these “debates” are anything other than pre-packaged joint campaign appearances. I think this view fits the observable evidence far better than MSNBC’s mendacious explanations.

    To bring up a comment from the previous post (which at 19 was getting too long), I don’t think a lot of people understand how prompting works and why a prompted candidate can respond so quickly. Here’s how: all of the potential questions are known and well rehearsed by the candidate beforehand. Good candidates let their top advisors and consultants script the answers with varying amounts of input from the candidate. Candidates will not allow questions which they have not prepared for. The prompter has a list of keywords which trigger the proper, rehearsed answer to any potential question. This is why a single word, or for example the short phrase “raised taxes” can instantly call up a detailed answer – because that keyword and that response has been practiced by the candidate many times, and there is a different keyword for each potential question. This is the best way to avoid public embarrasment for a simple memory glitch and helps build the (false for everyone) image that the candidate has absolute recall of the perfect answer for every possible question.

    And AJ is correct that the open mic had to be controlled through MSNBC’s soundboard, meaning they have always had full knowledge of what this was but are deeply embarrased by it’s leaking out.

    Once you can accept that these “debates” are nothing but pre-scripted joint informercials and that anything else said about them is a deliberate lie, the rest falls into place easily.

    “But wait!” some will say. Does this mean that I think that all – every one! – of the candidates is lying to us, the public, at least some of the time? And that the media lies too? Oh perish the thought, who could believe that?

  2. Whippet1 says:

    O.k. I can buy that explanation except that if someone in the control room heard what had been done and switched off a mic then why the second whisper? Incompetence? But only at Mitt’s expense? Why no more”errors” with the others on stage or Russert or Williams?

    If they all do it, why with Mitt and why now?

  3. Terrye says:

    No wonder people don’t bother watching the debates.

  4. BarbaraS says:

    I can’t believe this is a news story. This is the media blowing up some idiotic thing to gigantic proportions. Like they don’t have a bag full of tricks. What in the world does this have to do with the issues and who the hell cares?

    I’ve never forgotten Brian Williams calling the Florida polls closed in 2000 at 7:00 Eastern time when the whole of the panhandle was on central time and still open for another hour. Dirty tricks abound with these people. This is nothing new and is being given more space than it deserves.

  5. Klimt says:

    I agree with Dan Lee , who is a sound engineer, that it was simply a cue to Russert.

  6. AJStrata says:


    Too bad MSNBC has denied that theory already. Got another one?

  7. The Macker says:


    Does anyone remember the CNN woman anchor who accidently went to the rest room with her mike on and was heard making a critical remark about a relative?

  8. Klimt says:


    MSNBC has been flip flopping and is enjoying the show… I think we should have this investigated professionally… they could of been trying to hurt Romney.

  9. The Macker says:

    How much is an MSNBC denial worth?

    Notice how Russert picks up on the prompting with reasonable timing?

  10. Sara says:

    ‘AJ, apparently you missed this statement from NBC:

    “After reviewing the tapes, NBC determined that an open mic picked up a whisper from the audience. It is unclear who it is that says it, but it was not said by any of the candidates, was not heard in the hall and, more importantly, not heard by the candidates.”

  11. Whippet1 says:

    I guess you hold MSNBC in high regard for their honesty and fairness? They put up a post on the topic, pulled it without any explanation, got caught, put it back up with an explanation and the story they’re telling keeps changing…and you believe that someone wasn’t assisting Russert with the question because MSNBC told you so?

    You’re a hell of a lot more trusting of them than I am…

  12. AJStrata says:


    Of course I don’t trust them – that is why I pointed out their conflicting stories.

  13. Whippet1 says:

    Yes, you pointed out their conflicting stories but then you also point out certain statements they have made that you accept, i.e. that no one was trying to cue Russert.

    The one statement that you accept is the one that fits your theory that Romney was being coached by someone.

    Since their stories have been conflicting the fairest course to take is that anything they say about it at this point is suspect. But you are right that there is someone who was in charge of that mic who knows exactly what happened. I’m not surprised that we haven’t heard from them yet.

  14. AJStrata says:

    No Whippet,

    I pointed out when MSNBC debunked other people’s theories, that is all.

  15. Whippet1 says:


    You pointed out ” Too bad MSNBC has denied that story already. Got another one?” I took that as your acceptance of MSNBC’s denial and a sort of challenge to Klimt to go find another theory…

    Or were you simply being sarcastic about MSNBC’s denial? If you were being sarcastic then I simply read the wrong tone in your statement.