A Tale of Two Whispers

There is currently plenty of buzz about a curious whisper during the most recent Republican presidential debate held Florida and broadcast by MSNBC. The whisper happens just as host Tim Russert is ending a question and directly prior to the answer given by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Although MSNBC posted a news item about the whisper, the network later removed the posting, which, of course, prompted even more speculation. (For the record, MSNBC is saying that was also a misunderstanding.)

This incident was featured by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

What hasn’t yet made the rounds is evidence of a second whisper, overheard during a pause while Romney is answer a different question. Here’s the clip of the second whisper:

Spokespersons at MSNBC have since said the first whisper is the result of an open audience microphone, and was heard on-air but not necessarily by those in studio. Taking what MSNBC has said at face value and considering it logically, I don’t think what they are proposing is realistic unless a specific audience member was holding a live microphone very near his or her mouth. Unless that’s the case, how would the microphone have picked up only the whisper?

Since I don’t believe MSNBC has fabricated the open mic story, and because the whisper is only heard on one channel of audio, I think someone backstage, perhaps in a control room, inadvertently had a microphone turned on. The only thing that bothers me about this reasoning is that the voice is low — like a whisper — and not at a normal level, as would be expected of someone in a control booth who is not anticipating being overheard.

There have been many times when I’ve been in the audience, backstage or watching a debate on television that I’ve whispered something to myself in hope of sending it by pure desire directly into the head of the candidate speaking. (Okay, to be honest, when I’m watching from home, I’m often yelling and not whispering.) Given that I’ve watched campaign staffers at events mutter and whisper to themselves in the same fashion, I’m going to wager a guess that the whisper originates from someone who either supports Romney or is a member of the campaign staff. That being said, however, I’m not convinced that the whispering was ever intended to be heard by anyone, much less Romney.

Let’s face it, the stakes are high and Romney isn’t that desperate yet. Having someone feeding information to a candidate during any live television broadcast, but especially during a debate, and having it discovered would be a death blow to any campaign at this point. Also, while there are many things that can be said about Romney, he isn’t slow on his feet. In person, in small groups and even in large group settings, he is charming, personable and extremely articulate.

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A Republican turned Democrat who is now registered with no party, Lynda is the founder of Essential Estrogen. She and her husband live in eastern Iowa with their two (mostly good) children and two (mostly good) dogs. Their oldest child was turned loose on the world in 2011 and is making her home in another state. A journalist, essayist and hobby fiction writer, Lynda's work has been seen in Salon, RH Reality Check, the Atlantic, The Iowa Independent, UK Guardian as well as other online and traditional publications. She has also appeared as a guest on various television and radio news shows.

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