MSNBC blames Romney whisper on microphone malfunction
David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Friday January 25, 2008 |
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UPDATE: 'No way of knowing' who whispered, MSNBC says

The whisper that could be heard just before an answer from Mitt Romney at Thursday's Republican debate was the result of a microphone malfunction, an MSNBC spokesman tells RAW STORY, but its source remains a mystery.

Just before Romney answered a question about Ronald Reagan's 1983 Social Security overhaul, a voice can be heard whispering, either "He raised taxes" or "not raise taxes." The overheard musing was the result of an open microphone somewhere, but a spokesman said the whisperer has not been identified.

"We heard the same thing you heard," MSNBC VP for Communications Jeremy Gaines told RAW STORY via e-mail Friday afternoon. "There was obviously an open mike which picked up the whisper, but we have no way of knowing who did the whispering."

Gaines also said the network would replace a post that "shouldn't have been removed" from its First Read blog. The post is available here with an editor's note attached.

"We thought it might have simply been our control room cueing a question, which then didn’t seem to warrant a post, since that would be very inside baseball. So, I took it down," NBC's Domenico Montanaro wrote at First Read.

"As far as figuring out the mystery of who or where it came from, that is being worked on, and we hope to have an answer soon," Montanaro continued. "It puzzled us here too, and we’re looking through tape of other candidates to see if it was one of them. We’ll let you know."

The network eventually determined an open microphone in the audience picked up the whisper and said it was "not said by any of the candidates, was not heard in the hall and, more importantly, not heard by the candidates."

Earlier Friday, Gaines said the whisper was simply the result of "audio issues," but he revised that statement after returning to New York from the debate site in Florida and watching a tape of the proceedings.

Moderator Tim Russert asked Romney if he would "do what Ronald Reagan did in 1983" to fix Social Security. Immediately after Russert's question, someone can be heard whispering what sounds like, "He raised taxes," although Montanaro said MSNBC believed the whisperer said "not raise taxes."

It's unclear whether Romney heard the voice, but he quickly answered, "I'm not going to raise taxes."

Romney's campaign has not respond to requests for comment.

Some bloggers are accusing the former Massachusetts Governor of shenanigans.

"Some have speculated that the whisper is a prompt for Russert to add on the rest of the question, "raised taxes," to what Russert said about Reagan, but listen to how incredibly fast the whisper comes after Russert finishes his sentence. Seems mighty fast to have been someone trying to get Russert to finish the question - how does the whisperer know that Russert is done? It sounds much more like a prompt for Mitt," wrote blogger Steward Rhodes.

"Recalls “the bulge” from the Bush/Kerry debates doesn’t it?" mused Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson, referring to a debate in which President Bush appeared to have some sort of transmitter or other device underneath his suit jacket.

Commenters on MNSBC's First Read blog also noticed the incident, although the network removed a post referencing the whisper from its Web site before replacing it Friday afternoon.

RAW STORY enhanced the audio in the following video to make the whisper easier to hear.

The following screenshot of MSNBC's first read was posted at the liberal forum, Democratic Underground, before MSNBC took it down.

The following thumbnail screenshot of MSNBC's First Read was posted at the liberal forum, Democratic Underground, before MSNBC took it down. Click for full size.