In a broadcast this morning, CNN insisted the mysterious “X” that flashed over the face of Vice President Dick Cheney during a televised speech was created by a technical malfunction – a “computer bug” – and not a human operator.

CNN anchor Daryn Kagan was on camera from the network’s control room “to explain something to you that happened on this newscast yesterday” as Cheney spoke at the American Enterprise Institute.



Giant black X continuously flashed over Vice President Cheney’s face during CNN coverage of speech today (courtesy: Drudge Report)

Kagan said the glitch, first reported by the Drudge Report, involved a “switcher” that is used to “switch between visual elements.”

CNN’s official statement said, “Upon seeing this unfortunate but very brief graphic, CNN senior management immediately investigated. We concluded this was a technical malfunction not an issue of operator error.”

On the air, CNN’s director of technical operations explained to Kagan that at the end of Cheney’s speech, the plan was to “have a CNN logo up on the screen and use that as the way of getting back from the speech back to you on camera and one of the many graphics we use here at CNN.”

“A majority of graphics we use on the air, we use as a big X to identify at what point should the tape be cued up,” he said. “This is the X you see in the control room, but it is never meant to be seen on the air.”

Demonstrating how it works, he said the “technical glitch” with the switcher caused the X to appear on the air.

“And it’s the sort of thing that, just like your computer, will glitch and will suddenly lock up and do something weird; our equipment does the same thing on occasions,” he said.

But he explained it can’t be reproduced: “You can’t make it happen on purpose.”

Kagan said: “For all the conspiracy theories out there and we want to have someone who is trying to make a statement about the nature of Vice President Cheney’s speech, it’s a computer bug. Ours was in front of millions of people.”

According to the Drudge Report, the “X” over Cheney’s face “appeared each time less than a second, creating an odd subliminal effect.”

A screen capture shows that while one “X” flashed over Cheney’s face, CNN ran a headline at the bottom of its screen: “CHENEY: I DO NOT BELIEVE IT IS WRONG TO CRITICIZE.”

“This is the vice president of the United States. It is rather serious to be putting black ‘Xs’ over his face,” online journalist Matt Drudge said on last night’s “Hannity & Colmes” program on the Fox News Channel. “I felt it rather alarming that this is subliminally being sent out over the airwaves. … I’m just knocked out.”

When asked if he thought it was evidence of the so-called liberal media, Drudge answered, “I don’t know. Is CNN liberal?”

The TVNewser website obtained a statement from CNN spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg, explaining: “Upon seeing this unfortunate but very brief graphic, CNN senior management immediately investigated. We concluded this was a technological malfunction, not an issue of operator error. A portion of the switcher experienced a momentary glitch. We obviously regret that it happened and are working on the equipment to ensure it is not repeated.”

“It glitched over and over again, huh?” Drudge responded. “The timing of the glitch is interesting.”

Meanwhile, at a weblog called the Dan Report, a contributor manipulated a screen shot to expose text below the “X.”

The text reads: “Transition begins after 5 frames of black.”

That led some bloggers, including Michelle Malkin, to conclude the flashing “X” likely was a glitch.

In an update this morning, however, the Drudge Report said a “well-placed CNN inside” claimed a control room staffer “laughed” when the image appeared.

A top CNN source, who asked not to be named, told Drudge the network’s management was “taking this matter very, very seriously, and I can assure you no one at this network would ever deliberately place an ‘X’ over the vice president’s face.”

Cheney himself is said to have brushed off the incident, a White House source said early this morning, according to Drudge.


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