(DETROIT) Fearing a backlash after a Fox News microphone picked up a private conversation between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, the Clinton camp has accused Edwards of trying to sandbag her campaign. Officials fear that Hillary’s candid, unscripted remarks about her Democratic rivals might make hear appear cold and nasty.

Donna Tremaine, spokesperson for Urban Women for Hillary, accused Edwards of deliberately standing near the live microphone and goading Hillary into saying the opposite of what she really meant.

“Hillary has been taken totally out of context,” Tremaine argued, alluding to one particular remark whispered by Hillary to Edwards at a forum sponsored by the NAACP in Detroit. “What Hillary was referring to when she said, ‘We’ve got to cut the number,’ is the number of troops we have to cut in Iraq, not the number of people allowed to participate in upcoming debates for the Democratic nomination.”

Tremaine insists that Edwards, aware that the Fox News microphone was on, deliberately changed the topic of conversation from the Iraq war to the barring of second and third tier candidates from upcoming debates. “Edwards always knows when the microphones are on,” she said.

Gloria Gilchrist, an Edwards spokesperson, disagrees. “Hillary’s in panic mode. She knows exactly what she said and what she meant.” However, when asked if Edwards also meant to try to limit the number of participants in upcoming debates, she responded, “Absolutely not. Edwards believes in being inclusive.”

Campaign watchers know how quickly political fortunes can turn in a profession that is 99% perception. For example, Howard Dean’s presidential campaign tanked after his now famous scream in 2004. A more recent example is Edwards himself, whose poll numbers immediately declined after a report disclosing his $400 haircuts.

An anonymous rep from the Hillary camp accused Edwards of embarking on a 12-city poverty tour to undo the damage from the disastrous haircut publicity. “You don’t think that’s what driving his upcoming 12-city poverty tour?” The rep asked, adding, “Now you know why he’s trying to sandbag Hillary.”

Edwards says he will try to find a solution for the 37 million people living in poverty in the United States. He has pledged not to campaign during this tour.

Edwards could not be reached for comment.

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