Hot Mic

We begin bombing in five minutes

hot mic is an error in which a microphone is switched on or remains on, especially without the speaker realizing, allowing unintended listeners to hear parts of conversations not intended for public consumption.

Such errors usually involve live broadcasting in radio or television, and sometimes material is recorded and played back via media outlets. Hot mic events can cause embarrassment for the person or organization involved, sometimes resulting in serious confrontations and employment termination.

On 22 June 2000, Australian newsreader Marie-Louise Theile was recorded as calling her husband an ‘arsehole’ during what she thought was a commercial break on Ten News in Brisbane.

During television coverage of the 2000 Canadian federal election, a CBC Television producer covering Stockwell Day’s campaign was heard on-air making a gratuitous comment about the breasts of Juliana Thiessen Day, candidate Day’s daughter-in-law. His words were cut off mid-sentence: ‘This is Logan Day’s wife. I’ve never met her, but apparently she’s got tits that’d stop a—’ The producer was forced to apologize.

After a defeat for Chelsea F.C. in April 2004, former British football manager and commentator Ron Atkinson said of Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly: ‘He is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick [n-word].’ The microphone was open to some countries in the Middle East, with UK broadcasts having already finished. Atkinson was forced to resign his position at ITV and left his role as a columnist at ‘The Guardian’ by mutual agreement.

In September 2005, during a filming of ‘Access Hollywood,’ Donald Trump and Billy Bush had ‘an extremely lewd conversation about women’ where Trump said ‘when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … grab them by the pussy.’ When ‘The Washington Post’ broke the story during the 2016 presidential election, in which Trump was the Republican nominee, several dozen Republicans renounced their support of Trump.

On 8 August 2006, Network Ten sports commentator Dean Jones said ‘the terrorist has got another wicket’ when Proteas fielder Hashim Amla (the first player from a Muslim background to play test cricket for South Africa) caught Kumar Sangakkara during a match between South Africa and Sri Lanka. Jones claimed he thought the microphone was off and made prompt formal apologies, but was dismissed from his post.

On 12 May 2008, as a live news teaser was played, Sue Simmons was reportedly heard angrily exclaiming to a co-worker (later revealed to be Chuck Scarborough), ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ She later apologized on-air for her inappropriate language. Simmons has said she was attempting to get the attention of Scarborough, who was preoccupied with his computer, but did not realize her microphone was still on.

On 14 August 2008, actor Ernest Borgnine was interviewed on Fox News when he was asked about the secret to his longevity. Laughingly Borgnine responded ‘I don’t dare tell you,’ but then leaned over to whisper into the ear of his interviewer, but the whisper was caught by the microphone; ‘I masturbate a lot.’

In 2020 during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals, American broadcaster Thom Brennaman was caught on air calling an unidentified city ‘one of the fag capitals of the world.’ Brennaman apologized on-air and left the broadcast in the middle of the second game of the doubleheader; Jim Day provided commentary after the top of the fifth inning; Brennaman was suspended after the game’s end.

At the height of the Cold War in 1984, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was about to appear on a radio interview and, as a soundcheck, said ‘My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.’ The comment, while not actually broadcast, did eventually spread via rumor around the world. It was not appreciated in Moscow.

On 19 October 2006 during an official meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin was overheard praising Israeli President Moshe Katsav for raping ten employees of his office.

In March 2010, Joe Biden described the Affordable Care Act as ‘a big fucking deal’ to President Obama, which was picked up by the microphones.

On 24 January 22, Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy asked U.S. President Joe Biden if ‘inflation is a political liability in the midterms.’ Biden sarcastically responded ‘It’s a great asset — more inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch.’

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