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The Masked Avengers' prank on Sarah Palin: Wikis

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Sarah Palin in Dover, New Hampshire, October 2008.

On November 1, 2008, American vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin fell prey to a prank call by the Masked Avengers, a Canadian radio comedy duo, who tricked Palin into believing she was talking to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. During the conversation, the fake Sarkozy talked to Palin about foreign policy, hunting, and the 2008 U.S. presidential election. After it was revealed to Palin that the call was a prank, she handed the phone to one of her assistants who told the comedy duo "I have to let you go" and hung up.

Both the McCain and Obama campaigns released light-hearted statements about the prank. However, a McCain campaign advisor said that behind the scenes, aides and advisors to the campaign were not happy that the pranksters were able to lie their way up to Palin, or with the publicity Palin received because of the call.

Contents

Background

The Masked Avengers, a Canadian radio duo from Montreal, Quebec, had become notorious for making prank calls to celebrities. Disc jockeys and comedians Sébastien Trudel and Marc-Antoine Audette had previously pranked celebrities like business mogul Bill Gates, golfer Tiger Woods, singer Britney Spears, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.[1]

Sarah Palin was the Republican governor of Alaska. On August 29, 2008, John McCain announced that she would be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election against Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden.[2] Critics of Palin voiced their concern what they saw as her lack of foreign policy experience,[3][4][5] especially after an interview with Katie Couric of the CBS Evening News where Palin was criticized by many for her answer to a question about her "foreign policy credentials".[5][3]

Preparation

Marc-Antoine Audette said that it took the duo about four or five days of calls to Palin's staff to finally be able to talk to her.[6] They claimed that they started by talking to low-level people in Alaska and made their way up through Palin's campaign staff.[7] Audette said that at first they didn't think their prank would work, calling it a "mission impossible". He claimed that "after about a dozen calls", the duo "started to realize it [the prank call] might work, because her [Sarah Palin's] staff didn't know the name of the French President. They asked us to spell it."[7] Audette and Trudel credited their ability to make their way up through Palin's staff to sounding convincing during the first few calls, always arranging to place the call at a set time, and not leaving a contact number.[8] The four days of calls needed to talk to Palin was quicker compared to some of their other pranks. Audette and Trudel said that it took them two months to talk to Paul McCartney and one to talk to Bill Gates, but only two days to prank Britney Spears.[7]

Conversation

Finally, on November 1, the Masked Avengers were able to talk to Palin. The call began with Trudel, who claimed to be an aide to Sarkozy named "Frank l’ouvrier", talking to an assistant to Palin who identifies herself as "Lexi". Lexi puts Palin on the line, who says "hello" only to realize that Trudel is still on the other line. Trudel tells Palin to hold on for a moment while he gives the phone to Sarkozy, who is really Audette. Palin can be heard talking to someone in the room about when to hand Palin the phone. Audette then begins to speak.[9]

Audette: Yes, hello, Governor Palin? Yes, hello, Mrs. Governor?

Palin: Hello this is Sarah, how are you?

Audette: Fine, and you, this is Nicolas Sarkozy speaking, how are you?

Palin: Oh... so good, it’s so good to hear you. Thank you for calling us.

Audette: Oh, it’s a pleasure.

Palin: Thank you sir, we have such great respect for you, John McCain and I, we love you and thank you for spending a few minutes to talk to me.

Audette: I follow your campaigns closely with my special American Advisor Johnny Hallyday,[nb 1] you know?

Palin: Yes! Good!

Audette: Excellent! Are you confident?

Palin: Very confident and we’re thankful that the polls are showing that the race is tightening and--

Audette: Well I know very well that the campaign can be exhausting. How do you feel right now my dear?

Palin: Ah, I feel so good. I feel like we’re in a marathon and at the very end of the marathon, you get your second wind and you plow to the finish—

Audette: You see, I got elected in France because I’m real and you seem to be someone who’s real as well.

Palin: Yes, yeah, Nicolas, we so appreciate this opportunity.

Audette: You know, I see you as a president, one day, you too.

Palin: [laugh] Maybe in 8 years.

Audette: Well, ah, I hope for you. You know we have a lot in common because personally one of my favorite activities is to hunt too.

Palin: [giggle] Oh very good, we should go hunting together.

Audette: Exactly! We could go try hunting by helicopter, like you did, I never did that.

Palin: [giggle]

Audette: Like we say in France, "on pourrait tuer des bébés phoques aussi".[nb 2]

Palin: [giggle] Well I think we could have a lot of fun together as we’re getting work done, we can kill two birds with one stone that way.

Audette: I just love killing those animals. Mm, mm. Take away a life, that is so fun!

Palin: [hahahaha]

Audette: I’d really love to go as long as we don’t bring your Vice president Cheney.[nb 3] [hahahaha]

Palin: No, I’ll be a careful shot, yes.

Audette: You know we have a lot in common also except that from my house I can see Belgium.[nb 4] That’s kind of less interesting than you.

Palin: Well, see, we’re right next door to other countries that we all need to be working with, yes.

Audette: Some people said in the last days, and I thought that was mean, that you weren’t experienced enough in foreign relations, and you know, that’s completely false, that’s the thing I said to my great friend, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stef Carse.[nb 5]

Palin: Well, he’s doing fine, too, and yeah when you come into a position underestimated, it gives you the opportunity to prove the pundits and the critics wrong. You work that much harder-

Audette: I, I was wondering because you are also next to him, one of my good friends, also, the prime minister of Quebec, Mr. Richard Z. Sirois,[nb 6] have you met him recently? Did he come to one of your rallies?

Palin: Uh, haven’t seen him at one of the rallies, but it’s been great working with the Canadian officials in my role as governor; we have a great cooperative effort there as we work on all of our resource development projects. You know I look forward to working with you and getting to meet you personally and your beautiful wife, oh my goodness, you’ve added a lot of energy to your country, even, with that beautiful family of yours.

Audette: Thank you very much. You know my wife, Carla, would love to meet you. You know even though she was a bit jealous that I was supposed to speak to you today. [hahahaha]

Palin: [hahahaha] Well give her a big hug from me.

Audette: You know my wife is a popular singer and a former top model and she’s so hot in bed. She even wrote a song for you.

Palin: Oh my goodness! I didn’t know that.

Audette: Yes, in French, it’s called "Du rouge à lèvres sur une cochonne"[nb 7] or if you prefer in English Joe the Plumber, [sings] It’s his life, Joe the Plumber...."

Palin: Maybe she understands some of the unfair criticism but I bet you she is such a hard worker, too, and she realizes you just plow through that criticism like....

Audette: I just want to be sure, I don’t quite understand the phenomenon "Joe the Plumber", that’s not your husband, right?

Palin: Mmhmm, that’s not my husband, but he’s a normal American who just works hard and doesn’t want government to take his money.

Audette: Yes, yes, I understand, we have the equivalent of Joe the Plumber in France, it’s called, "Marcel, the guy with bread under his armpit, oui."

Palin: Right. That’s what it’s all about, is the middle class, and government needing to work for them. You’re a very good example for us here.

Audette: I seen a bit about NBC even Fox News wasn’t an ally, an ally, sorry, about as much as usual.

Palin: Yeah that’s what we’re up against.

Audette: I must say, Governor Palin, I love the documentary they made on your life, you know, Hustler’s Nailin' Palin.[nb 8]

Palin: Oh, good, thank you. Yes.

Audette: That was really edgy.

Palin: [laughs] Well good.

Audette: I really love you. And I must say something, so, Governor, you’ve been pranked. By the Master Avengers. We’re two comedians from Montreal.

Palin: Oohhh have we been pranked? And what radio station is this?

Audette: This is for CKOI in Montreal.

Palin: In Montreal? Tell me the radio station call letters.[nb 9][9][10]

At this point, Palin leaves the phone and can be heard in the background telling her aides that the call was "just a radio station prank". Audette is still on the line and jokes that "if one voice can change the world for Obama, one Viagra can change the world for McCain." One of Palin's assistants picks up the phone and says "I’m sorry, I have to let you go. Thank you."[9]

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Notes

  1. ^ Johnny Hallyday is a French singer and actor.
  2. ^ Translates in English to: "We could also kill some baby seals."
  3. ^ Audette was making a reference to the Dick Cheney hunting incident, where Cheney accidentally shot and injured a hunting partner.
  4. ^ Audette made a reference to Palin's interview with Katie Couric, where Palin, when asked what insight she had from living so close to Russia, answered "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."
  5. ^ Stef Carse is a singer. The actual Prime Minister of Canada is Stephen Harper.
  6. ^ Richard Z. Sirois is a Quebec radio host; he co-hosts his afternoon show with the Masked Avengers on CKOI-FM. The actual Prime Minister of Quebec is Jean Charest (the word usually used in English for the function is Premier).
  7. ^ Translates in Engish to: "Lipstick on a pig"
  8. ^ Who's Nailin' Paylin? is a pornographic film that satirizes Palin.
  9. ^ In promotions for the station, "CKOI" is pronounced "C'est quoi?", French for "What is it?".

Reaction

In an e-mail, Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt wrote that "Governor Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including President Sarkozy, and other celebrities in being targeted by these pranksters. C'est la vie."[11][12] When asked by reporters about the conversation, Palin said that she would "keep a sense of humor through all of this, just as we [the McCain campaign] did with SNL [parodies of her], too."[13] She added that "you've got to have some levity in all this."[13]

Barack Obama senior advisor Robert Gibbs jokingly said in an interview that "I'm glad we [the Obama campaign] check out our calls before we hand the phone to Barack Obama."[11]

The Masked Avengers received a sudden burst of fame from the prank. They gave more than 300 interviews about the conversation, and were even flown to New York City by CBS to appear on The Early Show.[14] In an interview, Marc-Antoine Audette and Sébastien Trudel said that they found it "pretty disturbing to see that idiots like us can go through to a vice-presidential candidate", and claimed that they were just "two stupid comedians with a bad French accent."[7][8] The Masked Avengers also admitted that the call was "probably the biggest [prank] we've ever done."[1]

The prank allegedly caused friction between Sarah Palin and John McCain.

When recalling the experience, Audette said that "once we [Audette and Trudel] started making jokes, she didn't seem to mind, and she didn't seem to be aware of the fact we were making jokes", which according to Audette was when "we were like 'Oh my God this [call] is gonna be long'".[14] The duo also said that they weren't trying to make any political statements with the call, they just like to take high-profile people to task.[14]

Impact

After McCain and Palin were defeated in the general election, a Republican campaign advisor told The New York Times that the McCain Campaign was not happy about the prank, which caused friction between McCain and Palin.[15][16] McCain and his advisors were allegedly upset that Palin did not tell them beforehand that she planned to speak with who she thought was Nicolas Sarkozy. McCain strategist Steve Schmidt called a meeting and demanded to know who let Palin talk to the fake Sarkozy without checking with senior advisors first. Steve Biegun, one of Palin's aides admitting to vetting the call without speaking to campaign advisors or the U.S. State Department, told the Los Angeles Times that "No one's going to beat me up more than I beat myself up for setting up the governor like that."[15][16]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Nichols, Hans (2008-11-01). "Palin Tricked Into Chat With Canadian Comic Posing as Sarkozy". Bloomberg L.P.. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aWvdSt1G3ztU. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  2. ^ Washington Wire (2008-08-29). "When John Met Sarah: How McCain Picked Palin". Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/08/29/when-john-met-sarah-how-mccain-picked-palin/. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  3. ^ a b "Poll shows Palin might be losing some of her luster". Boston Globe. 2008-09-27. 
  4. ^ "Georgia Offers Fresh Evidence on War’s Start". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/world/europe/16georgia.html?em. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  5. ^ a b "Palin's ABC Interview: Stumped On Bush Doctrine". The Huffington Post. -2008-09-11. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/11/palins-abc-interview-stum_n_125818.html. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  6. ^ "Quebec pair prank Palin with faux-Sarkozy phone call". CTV Television Network. 2008-11-01. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081101/palin_prank_081101/20081101?hub=TopStories&s_name=. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  7. ^ a b c d Edwards, David; Kane, Muriel (2008-11-03). "Canadian phone pranksters: Palin 'as gullible as Britney Spears'". The Raw Story. http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Canadian_DJs_Palin_more_gullible_than_1103.html. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  8. ^ a b "Palin's staff didn't know French president's name - prankster". The New Zealand Herald. 2008-11-04. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10541077. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  9. ^ a b c CatM (2008-11-01). "Sarah Palin Prank Call Transcript *Update". Daily Kos. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/1/163922/235/763/649110. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  10. ^ "Transcript of prank call between Sarah Palin and "The Masked Avengers"". Yahoo! News. 2008-11-01. http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/081101/entertainment/palin_transcript. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  11. ^ a b "Sarah Palin fooled by fake Sarkozy". Welt Online. 2008-11-02. http://www.welt.de/english-news/article2661691/Sarah-Palin-fooled-by-fake-Sarkozy.html. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  12. ^ "Palin 'mildly amused' by shock jock prank". United Press International. 2008-11-01. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/11/01/Palin_mildly_amused_by_shock_jock_prank/UPI-58461225581873/. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  13. ^ a b Bolstad, Erika (2008-11-13). "Prank call from comedians tests Palin's sense of humor". Centre Daily Times. http://www.centredaily.com/505/story/962552.html. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  14. ^ a b c "Montreal duo who pranked Palin tell their story". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-11-04. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2008/11/04/mtl-justiciersmasques1104.html. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  15. ^ a b "Quebec comedy duo caused friction between Palin, McCain". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-11-06. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/media/story/2008/11/06/mtl-palinmaskedavengers1106.html. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  16. ^ a b Goodman, Lee-Anne (2008-11-06). "Knives come out for Sarah Palin; McCain aides tell tales of an ill-informed diva". Yahoo! News. http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/081106/world/blame_palin. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 

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