Yes, Jesse, This Mic Is On

Jesse Jackson joins list of public figures who forgot the tape was running.

ByABC News
July 10, 2008, 11:30 AM

July 10, , 2008— -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson must be, well, nuts to talk about Barack Obama like that in front of an open microphone. But Jackson is hardly the first politician to say something he should not have in the vicinity of a live mic.

Jackson was caught Sunday during a break before a live interview on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" whispering to a studio guest that he would like to castrate Obama.

The quip was meant to illustrate Jackson's unhappiness with Obama's repeated tough-love talk about black Americans' taking more responsibility for their plight.

Jackson issued an apology Wednesday for the "hurtful and wrong" remarks. And today, on "Good Morning America," Jackson said, "When you're a home-run hitter, sometimes you strike out."

Many others have made such gaffes.

Jackson's Obama comment is just the latest in a long and sordid history of politicians caught saying regrettable things on tape.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush hit below the belt when he was overheard calling New York Times reporter Adam Clymer a "major league 'a**hole."

The comments were made while Bush was chatting to his then-running mate Dick Cheney while the two stood on a podium next to a cluster of microphones.

In 2006, evangelist Pat Robertson thought he was in a commercial break when he took a swipe at a just-departed guest during a CNN interview. "That guy was a homo, sure as you're alive," he was heard telling aides.

The late President Ronald Reagan -- the so-called "great communicator" -- nearly took us into World War III when he thought the microphone was off during a pre-speech mic check. Of Russian foes, he joked, "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes."

Of all public figures, Jackson should know better then to be so careless. In 1984, when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he referred to New York City as "Hymietown," an anti-Semitic remark he made when he thought he was talking to a Washington Post reporter "off the record."

In one of the countless mea culpa interviews he did after that controversy, Jackson said, "In private talks we sometimes let our guard down and become thoughtless, however innocent and unintended, it was insensitive and wrong."

Sounds familiar.