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U.S. first lady Michelle Obama addresses delegates during the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., September 4, 2012.


Wait a minute, wait a minute. Did Michelle Obama put on a fake stutter?

Pundits and observers are accusing the U.S. first lady of stammering on purpose during her Democratic National Convention speech last night to win the hearts of her audience members.

Time magazine correspondent Michael Scherer noted on Twitter: "Michelle Obama's rhetorical style leans on the intentionally stuttered word."

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Meanwhile, Marybeth Hicks, columnist for The Washington Times, bluntly tweeted: "The stuttering is SO EFFING FAKE. #thereisaidit"

Even those who praised Ms. Obama's speech couldn't help bringing attention to her verbal stumbling.

"Boy, did she knock it out of the park last night! If the stutter and the cracking voice at the end were not practised, they could not have been bettered," Bloomberg's Ramesh Ponnuru stated.

According to Gawker, Ms. Obama's stammer was indeed practised as a tactic to exude sincerity. "It is not so much a rhetorical device as an acting device," Hamilton Nolan wrote. "The same could be said for the presentation of almost all political convention speeches. And it is, at its core, sad."

The media industry website Mediabistro's FishbowlDC made note of some of her more obvious speech idiosyncracies.

A sampling:

  • “And-and-and as I got to know Barack, I realized …”
  • “And we were taught to-to value everyone’s contribution …”

If you watch the whole speech, you may also catch a few others, such as:

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  • “I have seen first-hand that being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it-it reveals who you are …”
  • “If-if farmers and-and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire, if-if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores … then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream …”

Earlier this year, disgraced America's Got Talent contestant Timothy Poe was caught out for fabricating a story about developing a stutter due to a brain injury sustained while serving in Afghanistan. Some questioned the authenticity of the stutter itself.

Interestingly, others wondered whether Mr. Poe was a lifelong stutterer who was so embarrassed by his speech impediment that he made up a story to cover for it.

Clearly, faking a stutter to elicit sympathy is ugly business. But calling out alleged phonies is risky too. What if they truly can't help their stammer?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More


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