No, Mitt Romney Did Not Bring Cheat Notes to the Debate

The GOP nominee brought a handkerchief, not cheat notes, to the debate.

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Reddit was up in arms last night after video from the first presidential debate in Denver posted to the site's politics section appeared to show Mitt Romney pulling cheat notes at the debate. About 2 minutes and 15 seconds in to the video, the GOP nominee is seen putting his hand into his right pocket and placing what appears to be white paper on the podium.

But the Romney campaign told Whispers Friday that Romney was only pulling out a handkerchief.

A close analysis of video of the debate supports that. At 1:26:35 in the video, Romney picks up the same white object—clearly a handkerchief this time—to wipe his face.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which runs the debate logistics, did not release its contract of rules to the public this year. And it has not responded to request for comment on the 2012 debate rules. But a copy of the 2004 contract of rules reads: "No props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by any candidate." The candidate can take notes, but only on a pad provided by commission staff.

As far as the rule on "tangible things," hankies appear to be an exception.

Update, 1:00 p.m.

A forensic video analyst, who did not wish to be named because of pending state and federal cases he’s working on, says he also believes the white object was just a handkerchief.

“The size, thickness, and overall dimensionality when he first walks up to the podium is consistent with a handkerchief, and not with a single note card,” he tells Whispers. “The elemental movement and mechanics [later on in the video] also suggest it’s absolutely a handkerchief he picks up around his face.”

A number of commenters have pointed to a later part in the video, when Romney collects sheets of paper from the podium at the end of the debate instead of leaving them behind. It’s worth noting that candidates do receive paper from the commission to take notes on, so it was likely those papers Romney was collecting.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at