September 19, 2020
Frustrated senator drops F-bombs during nationally televised virtual hearing

Frustrated senator drops F-bombs during nationally televised virtual hearing


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A masked staffer tries to help Sen. Tom Carper with his video conferencing difficulties during a public hearing on the US Postal Service.


Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Staying at home during the coronavirus quarantine, many of us have had our share of video conference mishaps — from pets getting in the way to not quite understanding video meeting etiquette. Some of us suffering from extreme Zoom fatigue have even found ways to pretend we’re in meetings when we’re not.

But for Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, one video conference call turned into a nightmare as he found himself letting out a few expletives and not realizing his camera and microphone were on during the public US Postal Service hearing on Friday.

Carper, a Democrat, appeared to be having technical difficulties and was caught swearing while in line to question Postmaster General Louis DeJoy regarding recent Postal Service changes, which could impact up to 80 million people’s ability to vote by mail during the November presidential election. Apparently, Carper was accidentally passed over in line by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, who moved on to the next person for questions.

Carper mumbled three F-bombs, which got Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford‘s attention in the public meeting. “Mr. chairman, I think Senator Carper is there, I think he’s trying to be able to queue it all up right now,” Lanford said. 

Johnson chuckled and said, “OK, um, we don’t want to be on TV again,” most likely alluding to Carper’s unexpected outburst. Then Carper was allowed to ask Postmaster General DeJoy his questions.

In response to the incident, a spokesperson for Carper said in a statement, “Like most Americans in 2020, Senator Carper got frustrated with technical difficulties this morning, but that pales in comparison to his frustration with a postmaster general who’s actively undermining the US Postal Service during a national crisis.”

While the senator might have been mildly embarrassed by swearing in a public meeting, he ended up using the incident to his advantage, later saying in a tweet how passionate he was about the issues facing the Postal Service.

Carper also tweeted later in response to his F-bombing: “Those who know me know that there are few things that get me more fired up than protecting the Postal Service!”

Some people posted their reactions on social media to the senator’s F-bombing. Some applauded him for being so fired up about the issues. And others related to the gaffe. “Everyone has been there, especially lately,” one wrote. Wrote another, “Golden rule of tech: if there’s a mic near you, always assume it’s on.”





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