Caught On Tape: Words That Haunted In 2012

Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon talks to Esquire Magazine's A.J. Jacobs about some of the people who got caught on tape in 2012 saying things that came back to haunt them.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Everybody carries a video recorder around these days - in their cell phone. Yet people, including public people, continue to say things that maybe they'd want to rephrase. AJ Jacobs calls 2012 The Year of Getting Caught on Tape. The author, Esquire Magazine editor, and occasional know-it-all on our program joins us from New York. AJ...

AJ JACOBS: Yes.

SIMON: ...thanks for being with us. By the way, we got people listening now, OK?

JACOBS: I'm going to try to make it through without saying something embarrassing. I know you think that's a long shot, but I'm going to try.

SIMON: Exactly. Well, let's try to get through the first minute. Of course, political gaffes kind of top the list in an election year. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, said something in a closed fundraising appearance that got picked up on somebody's cell phone.

MITT ROMNEY: All right. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are rely upon the government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they're entitled...

SIMON: Now, he later said, you know, he got that 47 percent statistic correct. But how could somebody with all these high-ticket advisors forget that everybody's got a camera in their cell phones these days?

JACOBS: Well, I think we live in the golden age of gaffes. And it's not that we're making more gaffes, it's just that we've said dumb things for all of history. It's just that now every dumb thing we say is recorded and played ad infinitum on the Internet. So, there's no such thing as off the record.

SIMON: Of course, we should note there were a couple of democratic indiscretions too. This romantic recollection, for example, from Vice President Biden:

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I can tell you, and I've known eight presidents, three of them intimately.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Chivalrously, the vice president didn't name the three of them that he's known intimately.

JACOBS: But it's not just politicians. It's everyone, from high to low. There was the Olympic gymnast, McKayla Maroney. And she wasn't caught saying something but she was caught making that famous smirk, that annoyed smirk, when she got the silver medal instead of the gold.

SIMON: But, I mean, but that's made her a star. Even President Obama imitated her smirk when she...

JACOBS: Well, I think she was brilliant, because she owned that smirk. She could have been embarrassed and tried to disown it, but she embraced her smirk and became a superstar.

SIMON: Sometimes words said one context take on a different meaning elsewhere. Paula Broadwell - I'm thinking of this - she appeared on "The Daily Show" to talk about her biography of General Petraeus before her intimacy became known. She talked about the title of her book, "All In."

PAULA BROADWELL: I don't think there's any senior military leader or anyone who's worked closely with him that wouldn't acknowledge that he goes all in to what he does.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Don't say a thing. This is a family show, OK?

JACOBS: OK. Well, I will say one thing that I think is family-friendly, and that is that the General Petraeus affair, I mean, you could not have scripted a better example of how we are in the twilight of privacy and secrecy. Because if the head of the CIA could not keep his affair secret, then there's really no chance for the average Joe.

SIMON: AJ, just in time for the holidays, I gather you have another gaffe to give us?

JACOBS: Yes. There was a woman caught on tape stealing Christmas decorations from a house in Texas.

SIMON: We got a local news report of Ms. Grinch.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: The family here says their home was hit not only once but twice in one week, and their security camera right there by their front door, well, it caught Mrs. Grinch in the act.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: She gets out, walks up my sidewalk...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: ...and goes right for the holiday wreath, taking it off the front door and then walking off to her truck.

SIMON: And I understand the suspected perp is still at large. Listen, AJ, you spent a lot of time this past year recording yourself.

JACOBS: I did an article for Esquire magazine, where I work, and I wanted to take the idea of the recorded life to its logical endpoint. So, I joined this movement, which is called Life Logging. And the idea is that these people record every moment of their lives from morning till night. So, the first time my kid cursed I have it on tape. You know, I was appalled at the time. Yeah, it was a very sweet...

SIMON: How sweet, yeah.

JACOBS: ...thank you. In 10 years, it will be sweet. It was upsetting at the time. But I'm glad I have it. And I have these fights with my wife. So, I would go back and try to, you know, I would say let's replay the fight. But that was actually kind of a disaster, I will admit that was, you know, 'cause it was a lose-lose. If I was wrong then I was flat-out wrong, and if I was right, then she just got angrier.

SIMON: You have, I gather, some audio and video of you playing chess with your son, and what happens?

JACOBS: Well, he was absentmindedly putting the chess pieces on a plate of watermelon. And I asked him to stop and he denied that he was doing it. So, I said, well, let's rewind.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BOY: I'm sorry.

JACOBS: Take it off the plate, please.

BOY: I never put it on that plate.

JACOBS: Who did? Should we check the tape and see if a little goblin came in and put it on the plate?

SIMON: How old's your son, again, AJ?

JACOBS: He is eight years old.

SIMON: Eight years old. So, feel, again, a great sense of satisfaction out of almost outwitting an eight-year-old?

(LAUGHTER)

JACOBS: Almost is an excellent point. Yes. I mean, that was extremely satisfying moment in my parenting.

SIMON: AJ, I hope you and your family, if they're still speaking with you, have a wonderful holiday.

JACOBS: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Thanks for dragging us down to your level again.

JACOBS: Of course. My pleasure.

SIMON: AJ Jacobs. The author, most recently, of "Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection."

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