The radio DJ who pulled off one of the most spectacular prank phone calls of all time --- he punk'd Gov. Sarah Palin by posing as French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- said he simply began at the bottom of her staff and worked his way up to get the Republican vice presidential nominee on the telephone.
Marc-Antoine Audette of Montreal radio station CKOI said he could not believe his good fortune -- or the international sensation his audacious hoax caused.
Audette, posing as Sarkozy, had a seven-minute on-air conversation with an unsuspecting Palin that began innocently enough. But before long, it had him talking about hunting from a helicopter, how his wife was "so hot in bed" and the Hustler magazine video "Nailin' Pailin."
The Palin campaign laughed the incident off. "Gov.Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including the real President Sarkozy, and other celebrities in being targeted by these pranksters. C'est la vie," Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said in a written statement.
Audette said the prank started with a call to Alaska. "We started by calling the governor's office in Alaska, and after that, we were transferred from one person to another. It took us about four days. We spoke to about a dozen people, and that's how we were able to speak to her," Audette told ABCNews.
"Call it luck, call it perseverance, call it what you want -- but I never thought we would be able to do it."
Palin joins a long list of boldface names Audette and his radio partner Sebastien Trudel have punk'd. Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Mick Jaggar, Donald Trump and Britney Spears are just a few of their prominent victims.
It was hardly the kind of attention Palin needed in the closing hours of a campaign in which she has sometimes been ridiculed as a politician who is not ready for prime-time. The stunt also touched off a debate about the operations of the McCain-Palin campaign.
"Can you imagine this happening to Barack Obama or to Joe Biden?" said New York Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.
- Election Map: State-by-State Results
- Poll Tracker: See How They Run
- Complete Vote 2008 Election Coverage
"The people running her campaign are not adequately protecting her. Either they are not doing their work, or they have given up -- which tells you the wheels are coming off the bus."
But Daniel Schnur, the director of the Institute for Politics at the University of Southern California and the communications director of McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, said, "I don't think this incident says a whole lot."
"Of all the things you want to do to get a vice presidential campaign to operate efficiently in the 60 or 70 days that it exists, having a protocol for screening phone calls from foreign leaders is pretty far down the list. Give the disc jockeys some credit for pulling a fast one. Give the campaign credit for taking it in good humor."
Audette and Trudel flew to New York City Sunday night for a whirlwind of interviews. Asked how they were able to dupe Palin's staff and con the candidate, Audette told ABC News, "This will sound stupid, but mostly we just sound convincing."
In dialing up Palin on Saturday, Audette, a French-Canadian, spoke English in a thick accident that was more Pepe Le Pew than Parisian.
"You know, I see you as president one day, too," the faux Sarkozy said. "Maybe in eight years," Palin replied.
Audette, as Sarkozy, then told Palin he shared her interest in hunting and that they could "go hunting by helicopter like you did." He added in French that they could kill baby seals. Switching back to English, he said, "I just love killing those animals. Mmm, mmm, take away life, that is so fun. I'd really go, so long as we don't bring along Vice President Cheney."
"No. I'll be a careful shot, yes," Palin replied.
The phony Sarkozy remarked that "we have a lot in common. Also, except from my house, I can see Belgium." To which Palin replied, "Well, see, we're right next door to different countries that we all need to be working with, yes."
The fake French president then told Palin that his wife, the singer and songwriter Carla Bruni, was "hot in bed" and "jealous that I was supposed to speak to you today." He added that "I love the documentary they made on your life. You know, Hustler's 'Nailin' Palin'?" Palin answered, "Oh, good, thank you, yes," Palin said obviously unaware of what he was talking about.
Audette said that most of the time, he is only able to use "30 to 40 percent of the material" he and Trudel have written for their crank calls before the person they are conning realizes the put on.
"But with Mrs. Palin we got lucky, because we used all the material we had written. At the end, we had to improvise."
He added, "I was pretty nervous. I was wondering if someone was listening and would cut us off, or that maybe Mrs. Palin would say, 'This is not the president of France.' But once she started calling me Nicolas … I said, 'Maybe I have a chance. Maybe this could work.' It is something, isn't it? A lot of journalists would love to have a word with her. We are pretty proud of what we did."