Palin and the Teleprompter

By Lee Speigel

Sep 15, 2008 8:42pm

At a fundraiser in Canton, Ohio, this evening, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had an interesting description of her speech to the Republican convention.

“There Ohio was right out in front, right in front of me," Palin said. "The teleprompter got messed up, I couldn’t follow it, and I just decided I’d just talk to the people in front of me. It was Ohio.”

This struck many of us — who, as she spoke, followed along with her prepared remarks, and noted how closely she stuck to the script — as an unusual claim. (Especially those of my colleagues on the convention floor at the time, reading along on the prompter with her, noticing her excellent and disciplined delivery, how she punched words that were underlined and paused where it said "pause," noting that "nuclear" was spelled out for her phonetically.)

Please note: few people who work on TV will ever bad-mouth a teleprompter. And Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., works with a prompter not infrequently.

But it’s different to use one, and to use one but imply that you weren’t.

Was Palin doing that tonight?

McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds says no, and disputes any notion that Palin was implying that she ad-libbed the speech by saying she "couldn’t follow it" on the teleprompter, so she "just decided I’d just talk to the people in front of me."

McCain-Palin spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker says, "She was off the prompter at points."

Bounds says anyone who thinks Palin was implying that her speech was ad-libbed is unfairly reading into her remarks. Whether she was reading the speech or had it memorized, she delivered it and delivered it well, he says.

I should note that, after Palin’s speech, some conservative bloggers reported that sources close to McCain had told them that the teleprompter had broken and Palin "winged it."

"The teleprompter did not break," wrote Politico’s Jonathan Martin.  "Sarah Palin delivered a powerful speech last night, but she did not ‘wing it’…"

Says Martin, "Perhaps there were moments where it scrolled slightly past her exact point in the speech. But I was sitting in the press section next to the stage, within easy eyeshot of the teleprompter. I frequently looked up at the machine, and there was no serious malfunction. A top convention planner confirms this morning that there were no major problems."

- jpt

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