Media Production

President Obama’s Teleprompter Addiction

Because he seemed so spontaneous and articulate during the presidential campaign, many people have been surprised at how addicted Barack Obama has become to his teleprompter.  Even during the smallest announcement or supposedly casual moment – indeed, even during his appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – he used his prompter.  It malfunctioned a few times during the campaign which resulted in some less than powerful speeches.  After those incidents, many of us thought he’d wean himself off the device.  But I’m afraid that didn’t happen.

Prompters make it especially difficult for photographers and TV crews trying to capture images of the president during major events.  And even White House veterans have been surprised to see the equipment set up against the mahogany doors and beautiful crystal chandeliers in the East Room or the marble columns of the Grand Foyer.  “It’s just something presidents haven’t done,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidential historian who’s been in the White House since 1975.  “It’s jarring to the eye. In a way, it stands in the middle between the audience and the president because his eye is on the teleprompter.”

I find it interesting that for all the jokes about the bumbling of President Bush, he was far more off the cuff and spontaneous than president Obama has been.  In my work with television personalities, I do my best to get them off the prompter.  I don’t mind notes or transitional material, but it takes a real pro to convince the audience you’re not reading – and worse – when you’re supposed to be talking from the heart, it’s tough convincing people of your sincerity when you’re reading prepared remarks off a teleprompter.

It’s about as honest as events where people read the opening prayer off an index card.

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  1. Phil, I couldn’t agree more. And I’ve been amazed (not) at how the media has generally given him a pass after having been so hard on GWB. I think it diminishes his effectiveness in many ways. As you probably know, his teleprompter is now on Twitter to give us the inside scoop.

  2. One more indication that politics in this country has suddenly become more about showmanship and performance than policy and governance.

  3. President Obama using a teleprompter to keep himself ontarget does not seem to be a bad thing. We seem to have forgotten that President Bush was not only spontaneousand off the cuff, but he butchered his own sayings.   I know that we are going to start looking atPresident Bush with tear filed eyes and remember the good ole’ days, but speakingwas not his strong suit.  Yes, PresidentBush did come across more a real person; Yes, his messages were more Bush thenwriter, but a well spoken President is what we need right now.  President Obama is like an older brother thatis very successful and educated, thus making the rest of the family feel goodabout itself.  We needed a President thatwe could be proud of: one that we could hope one day that we could polish ourselvesenough to seem like.  I voted for Bushbecause I believed in him, I voted for McCain for the same reasons; yet I amproud to have a man like President Obama to lead our nation. 

  4. Look even Dr. Evil, Lex Luther, and Darth Vader had to have some down time. This teleprompter business – all it means is there are times when Obama talks without thinking. For some people thinking and talking are hard. And then those tricky reporters ask their questions and Obama is called upon to think and to talk. Whoa!

    How much more can you ask from Obama eh? He’s busy taking over the government, banking, and the auto industry. Being a tyrant ain’t easy.

  5. In my opinion, it seems as if we got a rotten deal with this administration… the beginning of the end…

  6. Hi Phil,

    Blast from the past. I’m trying the understand the point of view of your website – very interesting.


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