Open Mic Moments: Obama Is a Veteran of Unintended Candor

PHOTO: President Barack Obama, left, chats with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, March, 26, 2012.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

It's every public figure's nightmare. You lean over to make an off-handed remark, and the entire world ends up eavesdropping. It's the curse of the open microphone, and it's haunted its fair share of U.S. presidents.

From President Obama's not-so-secret conversation about missile defense with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to former President George W. Bush's insult about a reporter, here's a look at some the hot mic missteps that have plagued America's leaders.

VIDEO: Obama tells Russian president he'll have more flexibility after his election.
ABCNEWS.com

Apparently 90 minutes of closed-door conversation was not quite enough for Obama to get his message across to Russian President Medvedev.

As reporters were being ushered into the room following the leaders' meeting in Seoul, South Korea, this week, Obama's request for "space" on missile defense issues was accidentally transmitted to the press corps.

"On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space," Obama said quietly, but audibly to Medvedev.

"Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…" the Russian president responded.

Then Obama said: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility."

"I understand," Medvedev said. "I will transmit this information to Vladimir."

Obama's likely general election rival Mitt Romney quickly jumped on the remarks, which he called "troubling" and "alarming."

"This is no time for our president to be pulling his punches with the American people and not telling us what he's intending to do," Romney told supporters in California Monday.

Twitter also took hold of the exchange, injecting 140-chartacters of satire into Medvedev's promise that he "will transmit this information to Vladimir" and making "Vladimir" a trending top in the United States.

"I will retweet this tweet to Vladimir," one tweeter wrote.

"I will whisper this sweet nothing to Vladimir," another joked.

VIDEO: U.S. and French presidents are overheard bashing Israeli prime minister.
ABCNEWS.com

Less than five months ago Obama found himself in a similarly embarrassing open mic controversy with another top foreign diplomat.

At November's G-20 Summit in France, a private conversation between Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy was accidentally broadcast to reporters when the pair's microphone was switched on too early for an upcoming event.

The open mic caught the two leaders complaining about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I can't stand him anymore, he's a liar," Sarkozy said about Netanyahu.

"'You've had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day!" Obama replied.

Israeli newspapers erupted with the story, which was later confirmed by journalists from the Associated Press and Reuters who had overheard the comments, but initially decided not to report the off-the-record remarks.

Both the White House and the French government declined to comment on the incident.

After the press was ushered out of a private fundraiser last April, reporters caught a rare moment of unscripted candor from President Obama when his microphone was accidentally left open.

While the president did not insult an ally or drop a curse word, he did have some harsher-than-usual words for his Republican rivals.

In public, Obama had said the ongoing budget negotiations, which were dividing the legislature down strict party lines, were a "cooperate effort to find common ground."

But behind closed doors, he said this about Republicans:

"You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We'll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel and diming me in the budget. You think we're stupid?"

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the next day that the president was "not at all" embarrassed about his comments.

"There's nothing he said that contradicts anything he said in public," Carney said.

PHOTO: Barack Obama and Joe Biden
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Vice President has had his fair share of open mic debacles as well. Perhaps the most famous was when Joe Biden dropped the f-bomb during a press conference.

Shaking Obama's hand before the president delivered remarks on signing the Affordable Care Act, Biden was caught saying "This is a big f***ing deal." Obama smiled and nodded before turning the podium to deliver his speech.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged the comment via Twitter, writing "And yes Mr. Vice President, you're right ..."

VIDEO: Boehner and Biden Talk Golf Ahead of Obama's Speech
ABCNEWS.com

A few minutes before President Obama gave a major policy speech to a joint session of Congress on creating jobs, Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner had a far more bipartisan topic on their minds: golf.

As Obama made his way to the House podium, Biden and Boehner struck up a conversation about their golf game that was unintentionally transmitted to reporters.

Boehner bragged about the "seven birdies and five bogies" he shot at "one of the hardest little golf courses you ever want to see" out in Sand Hills, Nebraska.

"I shot a two under," the speaker said.

"You're kidding me!" Biden responded.

Boehner followed it up with a story about a less impressive game he played the next day.

"One day I play great the next day I play awful," he said.

VIDEO: President Bush makes an offhand remark about N.Y. Times reporter Adam Clymer.
ABC News

At a campaign rally just months before the 2000 presidential election, an off-handed insult that then-Gov. George W. Bush mumbled to his running mate Dick Cheney was picked up by an open microphone on the stage podium.

Between smiles and waves, Bush leaned in to Cheney and pointed to a reporter in the crowd.

"There's Adam Clymer — major league asshole — from the New York Times," Bush said.

"Yeah, big time," returned Cheney.

When he was later called out for the comment Bush was unapologetic.

"I said what I said. I'm a plainspoken fellow," he said, according to Time.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Share
Copy
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: A home damaged by a landslide Friday, April 18, 2014 in Jackson, Wyo. is shown in this aerial image provided by Tributary Environmental.
Tributary Environmental/AP Photo
null
Danny Martindale/Getty Images
PHOTO: Woman who received lab-grown vagina says she now has normal life.
Metropolitan Autonomous University and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine