There’s nothing hotter than a hot microphone. Despite decades of cautionary tales, politicians persist in falling into the trap of having their not-made-for-public-consumption words broadcast to the world.
The latest installation in the anthology of live-microphone moments came this morning, when President Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he’d have “more flexibility” after his presidential election. But it was hardly a first.
Here are some of the Loop’s favorite moments in hot-mike history.
— At the G-20 summit last year in Cannes, Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy indulged in a little bashing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the conversation wasn’t as private as the two world leaders imagined, and reporters were treated to an exchange in which Sarkozy called Netanyahu a “liar.” Obama sympathized: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” he said.
— Vice President Biden famously assessed the signing of the massive health-care bill in 2010 thusly: “a big f***ing deal.” The comment, made during the signing ceremony, in front of TV cameras, was intended for Obama’s ears only--but the mikes picked it up.
— During the 2000 presidential campaign, running mates George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were caught grousing about a reporter during a campaign event. Bush pointed out New York Times reporter Adam Clymer and called him a “major league a**hole.” Cheney agreed. “Yeah,” he said. “Big time.”
— Then-President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair thought they were having a tete-a-tete during a down moment during a G-8 summit in 2006. But Bush was overheard griping to Blair about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Syria should “get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh**,” Bush opined.
— President Ronald Reagan may be known as the Great Communicator, but he wasn’t immune to a microphone gaffe. During a soundcheck before a 1984 radio interview, he warmed up with a mock address: “My fellow Americans, I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever,” he said. “We begin bombing in five minutes.”
— When businesswoman Carly Fiorina took on Sen. Barbara Boxer, she didn’t just dis her liberal politics, she also trashed the Californai Democrat’s hairstyle. Before a TV interview, she was caught giggling and talking to someone offscreen about a recent appearance by her rival. “God what is that hair? ...sooo yesterday”
— C-SPAN caught then-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) sharing a racy joke with fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton at a New Hampshire political dinner. The blue tale poked fun of former California Gov. Jerry Brown, another White House hopeful, and involving lesbians and a graphic description of sex.
Kerrey apologized, calling the joke “stupid.”
— While not exactly an “open-mike” moment, one of the earliest examples of a president being caught unawares on tape came when President Nixon waited to go on television to announce his resignation in 1974. An emotional Nixon was captured on several minutes of tape, saying “I’m afraid he’ll [ White House phtographer Ollie Atkins] catch me picking my nose.”