Bush camp comments on mystery bulge

By Mark Follman
Published October 8, 2004 6:18PM (EDT)

With speculation swirling that Bush was wired during the first presidential debate, it was probably only a matter of time before the Bush team would have to respond. If the president wasn't set up to channel Rovian assistance for an hour and a half of unscripted back and forth, is there a another explanation for that mysterious bulge that the cameras picked up in the back of Bush's suit?

Rory O'Connor at Media Channel.org successfully reached Mark McKinnon, the Bush campaign's media director, for comment.

"I love this. Am tempted to say, 'I cannot confirm or deny,' and let the story get some legs," McKinnon responded by email to O'Connor's inquiry. (As a top media operative for Bush, McKinnon should probably know that the story has already run a marathon through the blogosphere.) "Or, how about, 'Since we put the metal plate in his head, we have had some measure of success with audio transmissions to the President.' Or, 'Yeah, but it clearly broke down during the debate.' Unfortunately, the truth is not nearly as interesting. The answer is, 'The President has never been assisted by any audio signal.'"

While McKinnon was not without a sense of humor in denying the existence of any audio aid, it's intriguing that he said nothing about what that odd little bulge actually might have been.

With an official denial now on record, O'Connor wonders if anyone who can prove otherwise will step forward: "Any media professionals -- like the 'top Washington editor for Reuters' who reportedly told 'isbushwired' last spring that 'Sure, Bush uses an earpiece sometimes. State of the Union -- he had an earpiece for that. Everybody knows it.' -- please identify yourselves."

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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