Always assume the mic is hot. Or at least assume, if you're in public, that reporters can hear what you say and that you're being recorded.
President Obama's remarks this week in South Korea to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are only the latest example of politicians making comments that reached a larger audience than they intended.
Apparently someone forgot to turn off the feed to the pressroom during a closed Chicago fundraiser for President Obama in April 2011. A CBS News radio reporter overheard the president tell his supporters that in budget talks with Congress, he told Republican leaders:
“You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?”(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
That wasn’t the first time Obama has been caught with a live mic at a fundraiser. In a ripple in an otherwise well-executed 2008 campaign, Obama was recorded at a California fundraiser stating that to console themselves, some rural voters “cling to their guns and religion.”(AP Photo/Casey Templeton)
At a campaign event during the 2000 elections, George W. Bush pointed out a New York Times reporter to his running mate, Dick Cheney, while whispering, "There's Adam Clymer, major-league asshole from The New York Times." Apparently Bush didn't realize the level of sensitivity of the microphones at the nearby podium.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Anyone who has been in front of a mic has probably gone through a sound check, as President Ronald Reagan, a former radio announcer, had done numerous times. What he didn't realize in a 1984 radio sound check for NPR was that he was also being recorded, according to the Deseret News. What did he say—jokingly—that generated controversy in an election year and at the height of U.S.-Soviet tensions? "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." Pictured is Reagan at the Daytona Firecracker 400 stock car race on July 4, 1984.(AP Photo/Ira Schwarz)
Recordings of Richard Nixon's private talks with his advisers and others in the Oval Office may have stayed private if not for Watergate and the revelations of the recording system's existence during congressional hearings. Though not everyone may agree with Nixon's views on politics, race relations, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, he wasn't shy about stating his views. Pictured is Nixon pointing to transcripts of his tapes in 1974.(AP Photo)
Also not shy, Lyndon Johnson was another frequently recorded president who discussed a variety of subjects, often in a very graphic manner, in his office. Included in his down-to-earth conversations, which were later released by the National Archives, is a phone call to his tailor in which Johnson described in anatomical terms how a new pair of pants was to fit.Pictured is Johnson (right) speaking with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in 1966.(AP Photo/White House)