Wednesday was not the best day for Wilda Laughlin, the legislative liaison for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. In fact, it might be forever remembered as “F-bomb Wednesday.” As many in the state knows by now, Laughlin thought her phone was on mute when she was listening to a House Finance Committee hearing on the department. The hearing was not going well. Legislators were getting frustrated by the lack of answers to their questions. And as legislators are wont to do, they didn’t hide their frustration.
In the middle of a scolding of the department by Chugiak Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze, Laughlin blurted out over the phone, “shut the f#%k up.”
After a long silence, Stoltze recovered gracefully. It’s unclear, however, if Laughlin will, which might seem unfair. The political arena is full of “hot mic” gaffes, and many have committed more serious ones than hers, both inside and Outside. The difference, however, is that Laughlin’s fate is left up to bureaucrats, who tend to be less forgiving than voters. And of course, she is a she and people tend to be less than sympathetic to foul-mouthed women than they are to men.
Below are some more well known “hot mic” mistakes made by both Alaskans and national figures. Some of them were punished for their mistakes. Others, mostly men, were forgiven.
- Dan Fauske, the director of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, once called the Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Frank a “moron,” after a private telephone conference, when he thought the line was dead. Fauske is now the state’s highest paid worker.
- During the Hickel administration and the huge retroactive back tax fight, there was a teleconference between BP officials and the Speaker of the House Ramona Barnes, who was supporting the industry’s position. She changed her mind quickly after someone from BP called her a “bitch.” He assumed the line was dead. It wasn’t. The mistake looked like it might cost BP billions. However, after an extensive lobbying session, Barnes calmed down, resumed her pro-industry stance and saved BP billions.
- In South Korea following a 90-minute meeting between Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, journalists overheard Obama tell Medvedev, on a hot mic, to give him “space” on missile defense, saying, “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility.”
- During his 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush called New York Times reporter Adam Clymer a “major league asshole” just before a campaign speech to Vice-President Dick Cheney, whose response “big time” was also said on a hot mic.
- Before a Fox-News interview in 2008, a hot mic picked up Jesse Jackson telling a fellow guest that because Obama was talking down to black people, he wanted to “cut his nuts off.”
- In October 2010, a voice-mail was accidentally left on Joe Miller’s spokesperson’s cellphone. The voices belonged to KTVA reporters, who were discussing a Miller campaign event. At the event, could they find a registered sex offender, they wondered? Will there be violence? And if so, how best to publicize it? Though even Fox News said that there was no bias in the stories that the station produced, two producers were fired after Sarah Palin got involved, calling them, not so originally, “corrupt bastards.”
- Speaking of corrupt bastards. Who could ever forget oilman Bill Allen getting caught on tape telling former legislator Pete Kott that he “owns his ass?” Or former Rep. Vic Kohring, who is now running for Wasilla City council, all but begging Allen for money for his child’s Easter eggs?
- Speaking of sex offenders? Unfortunately, there was never a hot mic moment when Bill Allen was allegedly having sex with teenagers in his hot tub.
- Speaking of animals and Sarah Palin: Everything was going fine. Thanksgiving 2010 was right around the corner. It was a beautiful day and the turkey was pardoned. The trouble started, as it’s likely to start with Palin, when she decided to give an interview to a local TV station. As she spoke about freedom, this great country, blah, blah, the camera focused in on a worker in the background, shoving turkeys neck first into a grinder. That’s not quite a hot mic moment, but anytime a writer can get animals and Sarah Palin into the same paragraph, he or she should stretch to make it work.
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