By David Swanson
Some of you may recall the powerful evidence in 2004 that George W. Bush was cheating in the debates by wearing an earpiece. The New York Times famously (well, at least somewhat famously) documented the evidence and then refused to print it because it might have had an effect on the election: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2012
A few of you may be aware of the extensive evidence that Bush has worn an earpiece and been prompted with answers at speaking events for the past three years: http://democrats.com/earpiece
This background is reason to believe a candidate might cheat and that it is technologically feasible. It is also reason to believe the media would kill the story. It is not reason to know that Mitt Romney cheated in the MSNBC debate this week. But there are other good reasons to believe that he did.
In case you haven’t heard about this at all, during the debate, Tim Russert asked Mitt Romney a question, then everyone watching heard a whispered voice say “he raised taxes.” Then Romney answered the question by saying “I’m not going to raise taxes.” Watch the short video clip: http://www.democrats.com/romney-cheats-with-an-earpiece
It looked like Romney was being prompted. I don’t think anyone ever imagined that the noise in Romney’s tiny hidden earpiece (assuming he had one) could have been so loud as to be heard on Romney’s microphone without leaving the candidate writhing on the floor in pain. If that’s what happened, I’m inclined to vote for the man. The theory is that somehow the transmission to Romney from his assistant got picked up. I don’t know how this could have happened, and I doubt that Romney’s assitant sat near an open-mic intended for audience questions. But I do know that Bush wore that box on his back in order to try to avoid something like this happening.
Now, Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic has posted a comment from one of his readers, which I cannot confirm, that reads:
“Some people have enhanced the first ‘he raised taxes’ whisper using audio technology and have discovered that there was actually more to it than just ‘he raised taxes’. They’ve disconvered [sic] that more can be heard: ‘He raised taxes, I’m not gonna…’. Listen to the full enhanced audio yourself. Go out and get a tape and enhance it yourself if you think this is wrong.”
Clearly that needs to be investigated. But even without that, there is good reason to believe that Romney was prompted.
The leading you’re-a-bunch-of-conspiracy-nuts explanation yesterday was that it was OBVIOUSLY one of Russert’s staffers prompting HIM. But the whisper begins too early for that to make sense. And two NBC staffers, when they heard the whisper, and when they read comments about it from viewers on the MSNBC blog, Emailed a third staffer a blog post wondering what it was. The third staffer posted this and then later deleted it. If Russert was getting prompts through an earpiece, these people would probably have known it and not blogged it.
On the other hand, MSNBC’s efforts to kill the story, including the deletion of the blog post and the readers’ comments (which I suspect was directed by someone higher up) would fit with covering up Russert’s cheating. And in one version of the MSNBC blogger’s explanation for deleting the post, his colleagues never intended it to be posted. The timing and the wording of the prompt (especially if Sullivan’s reader is right) do not make sense as a prompt for Russert. But probably only a threat to Russert’s ego will motivate MSNBC to investigate Romney, so I’m happy to keep that possibility out there. Please tell all your friends it was a prompt for Russert, and call NBC to ask about it in those terms.
Sloppiness and possibly reflexive covering up do not tell us what is being covered up, but MSNBC originally gave Raw Story an explanation that explained nothing, saying Romney’s microphone was not working. That’s funny: during the whisper, Romney’s lips aren’t moving. What difference would it have made in any way for his microphone to have been working or not working?
Next MSNBC posted a new blog post acknowledging that people wanted to know what happened but not offering any explanation.
The post claimed that MSNBC did not know whose voice is heard whispering, and that MSNBC was reviewing tapes of each of the candidates in order to determine whether it was one of them. This would tend to suggest that MSNBC does not think it was one of their staffers in a control room, and does not think it was one of their staffers feeding ideas to Russert. (I’m still unable to find the readers’ comments on this on the MSNBC blog, and if they were deleted the new post says nothing about restoring them.)
So, today the leading you’re-a-bunch-of-paranoid-whackos position is, of course, NOT that it was obviously a prompt for Russert. Why? Because MSNBC says that’s not what it was. Instead the leading position is something stranger than that, and it is the leading position because MSNBC says it’s what happened.
Having ruled out the possibility that one of the other candidates was whispering to himself, MSNBC added an update to its blog post concluding that someone in the audience must have been whispering near an open mic. This is apparently based on nothing other than MSNBC’s inability to come up with any other explanation, other than the obvious one. Nobody claims to be the whisperer. Nobody claims to know why a mic was open then and not at other times. There’s no substance to the theory. It may, in fact, be true. But, for now, it’s just a baseless theory, and a less probable one than that Romney was cheating.
MSNBC’s position now reads like a report on an election result that varies wildly from the exit polls. Such a result (if in the United States, abroad the opposite would be true) clearly proves that the exit polls must have been wrong! How do you know? Why, by ruling out the possibility that the discrepency was caused by Huckabee whispering to himself.
In case shame takes over and the latest MSNBC conclusion gets purged, here it is:
“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.”
How do we know it was not heard by the candidates (not even the one who appears to hear it and repeat it)? Why, because MCNBC tells us so. And how can MSNBC possibly know that? At best (and, I doubt this is even true) they asked one or more of the candidates or their staff, and those candidates said they didn’t hear it.