Mental Floss

Fun With Live Microphones

Kara Kovalchik
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Much has been made in the press of President Obama's off-the-cuff, off-the-record remark about Kanye West and his upstaging of Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards ceremony. Even though Obama simply voiced what most viewers were thinking, there was a lot of media criticism/analysis after the fact as to whether his remark should've been made public. Of course, he's not the first public figure to be foiled by a microphone. Here are four other examples...

1. Michael D. Duvall, 2009

Over in Sacramento, California, Michael D. Duvall, assemblyman for California's 72nd District, was apparently unaware that his microphone had already gone live in preparation for a televised committee hearing. Duvall, who had recently been placed on the Rules Committee that oversees member ethics, couldn't resist sharing some gossip with the colleague seated next to him. "She wears little eye-patch underwear," the married assemblyman confided, "And so, we had made love Wednesday--a lot!" The "she" in question was lobbyist Heidi DeJong Barsuglia, who was also married. Duvall went on to describe the more intimate details of his relationship with Ms. Barsuglia, unaware that his boasts were being broadcast. He resigned from the California State Assembly on September 9, 2009.

2. Jesse Jackson, 1984

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3. Newt Gingrich's Mom, 1995

In January 1995, veteran broadcaster Connie Chung interviewed Kathleen Gingrich, mother of Newt, who was then the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The interview was to be broadcast on the weekly magazine-style show Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, which was struggling in the ratings. She and her crew arrived at Mrs. Gingrich's home early in the day and Connie spent several hours just chatting with 68 year old Kathleen in a cozy, woman-to-woman manner. Once the cameras started rolling, Chung kept up the "best girlfriends" ploy and asked Mrs. Gingrich what her son thought of First Lady Hillary Clinton. When Newt's mom hesitated, Connie leaned forward and urged her to "whisper it, just between you and me." A more media-savvy interviewee would've spotted that trap a mile away, but Kathleen Gingrich was not a seasoned veteran when it came to the press. Besides, this nice lady wouldn't betray he, would she? So a guileless Gingrich scooted closer to Chung and uttered "She's a bitch" under her breath. This "scoop" did boost Chung's ratings for one week, but the backlash ultimately did more harm than good when it came to her career.

4. Nancy Kerrigan, 1994

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Of course her remarks were broadcast ad nauseum on TV news programs, so that the public could relish in the lack of gratitude the ice princess was showing toward her $2 million sponsor.
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We also could have included another Jesse Jackson moment from the 2008 campaign (his remark about castrating the Democratic nominee), or the time former President George W. Bush called a New York Times reporter a "Major league a**-hole." What other not-really-off-the-record moments do you remember?

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