Commentators on the left speculated a few “bulge” in Mr. Bush’s jacket (above), which they imagined hid a hidden receiver into which Karl Rove, the former president’s political adviser, was talking. The Bush marketing campaign tried to bat down the rumors, however they continued, although no strong proof ever surfaced. A NASA scientist even obtained concerned in analyzing photos of Mr. Bush’s jacket throughout the debate, searching for clues about the mysterious bulge.
In 2008, rumors once more circulated on-line candidate was being fed solutions throughout a debate. Ann Althouse, a regulation professor and conservative blogger, wrote that close-up TV stills confirmed that Barack Obama “was wearing an earpiece” throughout a debate with John McCain. (Ms. Althouse later recanted her concept, saying it was in all probability simply gentle reflecting off Mr. Obama’s ear.)
In 2016, the rumor appeared once more, this time hooked up to Hillary Clinton, who was accused by right-wing web sites of sporting a secret earpiece. (One such story, which appeared on the conspiracy concept web site Infowars, was shared by Donald Trump Jr. and different pro-Trump influencers.)
The secret earpiece rumor is just not completely an American phenomenon. Foreign politicians, together with Emmanuel Macron of France, have additionally been baselessly accused of sporting earpieces throughout debates.
Accusing the opposing celebration’s candidate of sporting a secret earpiece is just not a very refined disinformation tactic, nor wouldn’t it in all probability present a lot assist to a candidate even when it had been true. (In reality, as anybody who has ever watched a stay TV anchor fumble with a producer’s directions may let you know, listening to instructions in an earpiece whereas staying attentive to a moderator’s onstage questions requires a reasonably spectacular act of multitasking.)
But the concept of a hidden helper giving one facet an unfair debate benefit has proved seductive to marketing campaign operatives attempting to clarify away a lopsided debate, or sow doubts about dishonest on the different facet. As a 2016 Salon piece about the earpiece conspiracy concept mentioned, these rumors primarily appear to attraction to hyperpartisans whose views on the candidates are already made up.
“When someone presents you with grainy screen captures of George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton and claims that they show telecommunications equipment hidden on their bodies,” the piece mentioned, “your partisanship enables you to bridge the sizable gap between the poor evidence and the firm conclusion that someone offstage was whispering into the candidate’s ear.”