Discuss as:

Marco Rubio's 'watergate' and other awkward moments that derailed a message

Moments after Marco Rubio delivered the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, the Internet erupted -- not with specific praise or criticism for the speech itself, but with reaction to Rubio's seconds-long water break. Rubio, with gaze shifting between the water he so badly wanted and the camera itself, ducked slightly out of frame to grasp an undersized bottle meant to quench some outsized, panicked thirst.

"An equally impassioned drink of water that is trending on Twitter" was how NBC News' Brian Williams described the now heavily GIF'd moment.


At once, the H2-Rubi-O moment acted as the curse of live television and a highlight for the magic of moviemaking. In the world of Hollywood, someone could have yelled, "Cut!" and a production assistant would have provided precisely the frosty beverage Rubio so clearly wanted.

Rubio's series of gestures -- the looking away from the camera, the last-second lip smacking and awkward pause -- amount to a "small mistake," said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert and author of "Damage Control." "But it's a small mistake made significant because it’s something people can get their hands around. It becomes a problem because everyone’s talking about it, rather than it being a legit problem."

While Rubio had a good sense of humor about it -- his office tweeted out a photo of what seems to be the offending bottle of Poland Spring -- it's worth noting that he had the support of another politician who's been under fire for past speech gaffes, too.

Republican Sen. Bobby Jindal tweeted that Rubio had done a "wonderful job." Jindal, who gave the GOP response to the SOTU in 2009, had been ceaselessly mocked for sounding like "30 Rock's" Kenneth Parcell, and YouTube mash-ups comparing the two were created.

Another politician who came under fire was Michele Bachmann. She gave the 2011 Tea Party response to the State of the Union while looking into the wrong camera. 

Her misplaced gaze seems to pale in comparison to the missteps that took place during prior State of the Union addresses. During Clinton's 1993 address, the wrong speech was loaded into the teleprompter; in 2010, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. gave his own quiet commentary during a section on campaign finance, mouthing, "Not true."

In the aftermath of the missteps, it seems like the caught-on-camera gaffes might never be forgotten, but Dezenhall insists that's not the case.

"Things tend to pass out of the news rather quickly as soon as there’s stimulus," he said. "It's only a matter of time before Lindsay Lohan wrecks her car again, or Britney Spears gets out of one without her underwear on."