WASHINGTON - A mysterious bulge under US President George W. Bush's suit jacket during his first debate with Democratic rival John Kerry drew the attention of two top US newspapers after days of feverish Internet speculation.
The Bush campaign has dismissed the "mystery bulge" as nothing more than a wrinkle in the presidential jacket and derided speculation that Bush may have been wired as nothing more than the "ridiculous" speculation of Internet conspiracy nuts.
"Credible news organization have taken a serious look at that and decided not to run the story," said Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel. "People have been spending too much time dealing with Internet conspiracies. It's ridiculous."
Still, the bulge drew the attention on Saturday of respected mainstream dailies The New York Times and The Washington Post.
"The Mystery of the Bulge in the Jacket," was the headline on the brief Times item which accompanied its extensive coverage of Friday's second presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Post ran a much longer story under the headline: "Bulge Under President's Coat in First Debate Stirs Speculation."
Political Web logs, or blogs, have been buzzing about the bulge since the first presidential debate in Miami on September 30. The rectangular protrusion in the middle of Bush's back is visible in news photos and television footage.
A number of anti-Bush bloggers have speculated that the president was wearing a hidden earpiece and that the bulge was a radio receiver linked to a political aide prompting him from offstage.
Asked by AFP about the bulge, a White House spokeswoman simply rolled her eyes.
A Bush campaign spokeswoman said it was nothing more than a question of tailoring.
"There was nothing under his suit jacket," Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign's communications director, told the Times. "It was most likely a rumpling of that portion of his suit jacket, or a wrinkle in the fabric."