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MSNBC Explains “The Mystery Whisper”

MSNBC explains the “whisper” as well as the disappearance of their First Read blog post on the matter:

Now, if you’re of a certain mind, that’s the sort of thing that might lead you to start throwing around conspiracy theories. To wit, was Romney getting some unauthorized help from off-stage?

“Forget Dennis Kucinich’s claims about seeing UFOs. The new unsolved mystery of the campaign trail is the ‘whisper,’ ” wrote

“Recalls ‘the bulge’ from the Bush/Kerry debates doesn’t it?” asked Rolling Stone.

Just a random voice

While the buzz over the incident was loud enough that Brian Williams, Russert’s co-moderator and anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” felt the need to weigh in, the grassy-knoll types will be disappointed. Romney’s innocent, the network said.

Domenico Montanaro, an NBC News political researcher, wrote on the network’s political blog, First Read: “After reviewing the tapes, NBC determined that an open mic[rophone] 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.”

But because bad information chases after new, it is likely that the speculation will continue for some time. NBC didn’t help matters when a First Read post airing the matter abruptly disappeared from for a while. Altogether, it was more than enough to prompt political junkies to ask whether anything nefarious was up.

Turns out that posting was the casualty of an internal misunderstanding between NBC News producers, one of whom removed it because he thought it was a question, not a blog post.

Here’s the original First Read post that caused the fuss in the first place once it disappeared. The explanation of why it was taken down:

From NBC’s Domenico Montanaro

EDITOR’S NOTE: There has been a lot of confusion over a whispered moment from last night’s debate — someone saying what we believe was “not raise taxes” after a question from Tim Russert on Reagan and social security. We put the following post up last night immediately following what we and several First Read commenters heard.

For full disclosure, the way it works for us when we’re liveblogging is our contributors, who are either on site at the location or in D.C. or elsewhere, will usually send me posts via e-mail. While I am watching the debate, I read the dispatches, post if applicable after quickly editing and put up my own thoughts. Regular e-mail questions get mixed in sometimes. I put this one up, but when I did, Lauren Appelbaum wrote me and said it was not necessarily intended to be a post but actually just a question to me if I knew who made the “taxes” comment. Being in South Carolina, following the Democrats for their primary and not on site in Florida, I didn’t know. We thought it might have simply been our control room cueing a question, which then didn’t seem to warrant a post, since that would be very inside baseball. So, I took it down.

After some of the confusion today, we are putting it back up for those that haven’t seen it. As far as figuring out the mystery of who or where it came from, that is being worked on, and we hope to have an answer soon. It puzzled us here too, and we’re looking through tape of other candidates to see if it was one of them. We’ll let you know.


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