Executive mishaps

The perils of an open, ignored microphone

April 5, 2012: 2:09 PM ET

You would think that seasoned public figures would know better, but it's quite difficult to remain guarded and on-message for every waking moment. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

By Bill Connor, guest contributor

FORTUNE -- Just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow in the east, politicians and business types will continue to forget the presence of a live microphone at precisely the wrong times.

Consider President Obama talking sotto voce with Dmitry Medvedev after a joint appearance a couple of weeks ago, confiding to the Russian president that "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility," presumably implying that what he had just said publicly was not necessarily what he really meant. To this, Medvedev replied, "I understand. I'll transmit this information to Vladimir and I stand with you." Not the sort of gift the Obama campaign would have chosen to deliver to Mitt Romney.

And how about former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling a senior citizen outside Manchester a "bigot" on a BBC wireless mike inside what he thought was the privacy of his chauffeured Jaguar? Or George W. Bush telling Tony Blair that "the irony is that Syria should just tell Hezbollah to stop doing this s -- and it's over"? Or Joe Biden whispering to the President that the passage of health care reform was a "big f-ing deal," and he didn't mean "fantastic"?

MORE: No, business writing doesn't need to stink

You would think that these seasoned public figures would know better, but the fact is that it's quite difficult to remain guarded and on-message for every waking moment.

I know a CEO who did the same thing, with disastrous results. More

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