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Was Bush hearing voices during first debate?

The much maligned debating skills of George Bush are facing fresh ridicule after claims that he was wired to receive instant help during his first television debate with John Kerry.

Rumours spread around the internet that a bulge protruding from the back of President Bush's jacket, captured on camera during the debate in Miami, was a radio transmitter. It was said to be feeding him answers from an aide.

The Bush campaign dismissed the claims. It also denied some web reports that Mr Bush was wearing a bullet-proof vest. "People have been spending too much time dealing with internet conspiracies. It's ridiculous," Bush's campaign manager, Scott Stanzel, told the AFP news agency.

Another campaign official said it was nothing more than a question of tailoring. Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign's communications director, told The New York Times: "It was most likely a rumpling of that portion of his suit jacket, or a wrinkle in the fabric."

President Bush's tailor later said that what was seen was a pucker along the jacket's back seam, the Seattle Times newspaper reported. Georges de Paris, who made the suit, said it was accentuated when the President crossed his arms and leaned forward.

His claim was apparently supported by Mr Bush's improved performed in the second debate on Friday night, when his tailoring was perfectly smooth.