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What's She Looking at? Media Fixates on Bachmann's Eyes During SOTU Response


"Michele! Hey! Yoo-hoo!"

It's the question that is dominating talk of Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) Tea Party response speech to the State of the Union: Who, or what, was she staring at? And why?

As many of you may have noticed, Bachmann's response was only carried by one network on Tuesday, CNN. It was also supposed to be broadcast live on the Tea Party Express website via a separate camera, but technical difficulties prevented that from happening. That's important because most of the country, then, saw Bachmann only as broadcast by CNN. And here's what they saw:

For many, that meant Bachmann's message didn't connect with the American people because she never made eye contact with them. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were dominated by "cameragate":


Rep. Michele Bachmann may fall into that media-savvy cadre of politicians who, as the saying goes, has never met a camera she didn’t like, but Tuesday night many Americans got the impression she was talking into the wrong camera. ... [T]o those who were watching on CNN, the only news network that made the decision to air the speech live, she appeared to be looking off-screen to the left.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow mocked Bachmann's gaze:

So did Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod while appearing with Lawrence O'Donnell:

The incident drove Keith Olbermann absolutely crazy. He tweeted about it 10 times last night (eight of his tweets are below, with the earliest ones at the bottom):

Yahoo! News noted the awkward telecast with the headline, "Bachmann's response marred by technical problems." But before anyone delves into an anti-Bachmann CNN conspiracy theory, Yahoo! points out that the pool camera was actually operated by Fox News.

So what happened? As is obvious, Bachmann was looking into the wrong camera. There were actually two cameras filming the response, the pool camera operated by Fox and broadcast by CNN, and another camera that was supposed to broadcast the speech on the Tea Party Express website. Bachmann chose the wrong one. And since the web stream never worked, the only footage of the speech that exists is of Bachmann seemingly staring off into space.

CNN political director Sam Feist had this to say via Twitter after the incident:

In light of all this, Mediate raises (via Eric Deggans) the most obvious point: We can probably expect to see a spoof of this on "Saturday Night Live" soon.

(For anyone actually interested in the tenets of Bachmann's speech, you can read it here.)

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