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Why The Dean Scream Sounded So Different On TV

Howard Dean has a long résumé. He was the longest-serving governor in Vermont’s history. As a presidential candidate in 2004, he pioneered the online fundraising and organizing methods that later helped elect Barack Obama. He went on to serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Despite his accomplishments, though, he is best known for one thing: Yeeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!

ESPN Films and FiveThirtyEight podcasts have teamed up to tell the story of Howard Dean’s scream — the first in a series of stories re-examining moments in political history you thought you knew well.

Click play above to hear the full audio documentary, or find it on the FiveThirtyEight Elections iTunes channel. And be sure to to watch the short film that’s a companion to the podcast.

Below, we recount one of our favorite parts of the podcast.

The scream in the room vs. the scream on TV

In the podcast, our producer Galen Druke examines the question of whether the scream happened as Americans heard it on television. As the typical version of the story goes, Dean was riding high on a wave of populist support when one unhinged gaffe quickly sank his presidential ambitions.

That telling misses a number of important points. For one, as Harry Enten and Nate Silver write, Dean’s polling numbers were already in decline. But there is also uncertainty about how accurate the sound was from the hall that night in Iowa.

Galen consulted audio engineer Jen Munson of “On The Media,” who demonstrated that the broadcast left out an important part of the picture. Munson compared raw audio from the hall with what was broadcast on T.V. She also tried to create a more realistic audio representation of the packed hall. Finally, she described why she thinks the broadcast audio was “an absolute misrepresentation of the sound that he made.”

To hear more about why the story of Dean’s scream is not quite what the public thought it was, listen to the full podcast.

A version of this story also appears in this week’s “On The Media” as part of our ongoing collaboration. The Dean Scream podcast was produced by Jody Avirgan, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Galen Druke and Emma Jacobs, and engineered by Chloe Prasinos and Steven Jackson.

Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.

Clare Malone is a former senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.