11.05.2016 “Is that switched on?” Four memorable on-mic gaffes

It’s been quite the week for unguarded on-microphone comments. First UK Prime Minister David Cameron was caught on camera calling Nigeria and Afghanistan “fantastically corrupt” on the eve of his anti-corruption conference, then the Queen was recorded saying Chinese officials were “very rude” during a state visit.

People in the public eye have always had to be careful what they say and how they act when the media spotlight is on them, but in an age of 24 hour news coverage and ubiquitous digital technology it is becoming ever more difficult to be discreet.

Here are four of our most memorable on-mic gaffes:

David Cameron and the “purring” Queen


This week is not the first time David Cameron has been in trouble for his unguarded comments. Following the 2014 Scottish independence referendum the prime minister told former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that the Queen had “purred down the line” when he told her the result. A Sky News microphone picked up his comments and he was forced to apologise to the Queen, later saying he felt “extremely sorry and very embarrassed” at the faux pas.

Gordon Brown and the “bigoted woman”

brown duffy

Labour was already trailing in the polls in the 2010 election campaign when Prime Minister Gordon Brown made his fateful trip to Rochdale. There, he was challenged by 65-year-old Gillian Duffy on subjects including crime and immigration. In public Mr Brown dealt with the confrontation politely, but when returned to his car he described the meeting as a “disaster”, and Mrs Duffy as a “bigoted woman”. Unfortunately he didn’t realise he still had a Sky News microphone attached to his shirt recording his every word. His comments were broadcast and he was forced to apologise, later returning to Rochdale to say sorry to Mrs Duffy in person. Labour lost the election.

“Yo Blair”

The relationship between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush was famously close, the two men sharing the same taste in toothpaste, a deep Christian faith and a fondness for going to war with middle eastern countries. But in 2006 the world got a glimpse of just how close the two men were when a microphone caught the president greeting the prime minister with the words “yo Blair” at the G8 summit in Russia. Mr Bush went on to suggest a rather non-diplomatic solution to the difficulties between Syria and Israel: “Get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s*** and it’s all over.”

Prince Charles and Nicholas Witchell


It’s fair to say Prince Charles has never been a big fan of the media, especially because of the intense press interest around his former wife and their two children. Nevertheless, when you are the heir to the throne it’s inevitable that you are going to have to face the media occasionally. During a photocall on a skiing holiday in Switzerland in 2005 Prince Charles’ true feelings were exposed when he was caught muttering under his breath about BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell. Speaking to his sons William and Harry, the prince said: “Bloody people. I can’t bear that man. He’s so awful, he really is.”

So microphones. Terrifying things when you think about it. Fortunately Brighter Comms can help make sure you never make any on-microphone gaffes with our tailored media training course. In our day-long course, packed with realistic role-play exercises, our team of experienced broadcasters will prepare you for a successful and more satisfying media interview experience. We will give you and your team a solid understanding of why the media needs you, what’s expected of you and how you can get your message across with authority and style. And of course, how to make sure you are never caught off guard saying something you might regret.

For more information email us at: talk@brightercomms.co.uk or call 02921 023 190