A teleprompter is an electronic imaging system that enables speakers and newscasters to look into the television camera (or at a live audience) and read the text of prepared remarks without the viewers realizing it. It operates like a one-way mirror, with the reflection of text scrolling on the screen for the speaker and the viewers seeing through the text like a transparent mirror.
President Barack Obama has had difficulty speaking without the assistance of a teleprompter, making frequent bloopers and saying embarrassing things. Specifically, President Obama is essentially unable to give a coherent speech or run a press conference unless he can read from a teleprompter. As Vice President Biden jokingly observed:
|“||What am I going to tell the president when I tell him his teleprompter is broken? What will he do then?||”|
Historical use of Teleprompters
No major American politician has ever relied as much on a teleprompter as Obama does. Former President Herbert Hoover at a Republican national convention was the first to use the technology at a major event (a Republican National Convention), but he candidly let the audience in on the secret by telling the teleprompter needed to restart the scrolling of the text after he paused to improvise. Republican Presidents almost never used teleprompters at press conferences, as Obama frequently does.
One advantage for uninformed politicians is how a teleprompter can spell out the phonetic sounds of names and places. This was occasionally used by President George W. Bush for names such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sar-KO-zee) and Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe (moo-GAH-bee), as well as countries such as Kyrgyzstan (KEYR-geez-stan).
Unfortunately, the teleprompter used by Obama did not tell him that "corpsman" has a silent "p", resulting in an embarrassing gaffe as Obama sounded out the "p" for the familiar term for an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy.