Politicians have a maddening habit of evading questions
And it ticks-off audiences
Case in point, Republican Congressman Adam Putnam of Florida. Interviewed recently on the Fox News Channel—often accused of being the Republicans’ news network—Putnam’s feet, nonetheless, were put to the fire by Neil Cavuto. In effect, Cavuto asked “Who are you to talk?” when Putnam warned that the newly Democratic-controlled Congress would be raising your taxes and spending even more of your money to inflate the size and influence of government.
So Cavuto challenged him on GOP spending habits, especially over the past six years after inheriting a budget surplus. The business show host reminded Putnam how billions of dollars worth of Republican pork and the ever-popular practice of earmarking (does “the bridge to nowhere” ring a bell?), on top of the spending on the war in Iraq, have bloated the deficit significantly.
Putnam evaded. Cavuto let him pontificate for awhile and then asked again. Again, Putnam dodged, until, fully more than two minutes into the interview, he finally got around to barely acknowledging what we all already knew, that the Republicans “got carried away.” His evasion was a distraction, blurring any positive points he might have earned for the messages he intended to deliver. The congressman went into full speed spin.
What if he had simply said at the outset that, “Yes, indeed, spending was out of hand, but consider what Republican tax cuts have done for government revenues and budget deficit reductions…” The admission up front blunts the opening question and paves the way to communicating critical points that are not lost in the distraction of evasion and spin.
Attempt evasion and spin at your own risk. Audiences will notice and they don’t like it, probably anymore than you do when you hear someone else doing the same thing.
The Media Trainers® Re–winder Reminder:
- If you’ve been in error, did something wrong, admit it! People are more forgiving when you are honest.
- Answer questions responsively and bridge to your messages. Otherwise, your message will be buried in the spin, and left unheard.
- Piggy-backing on one of our reminders last month, listen very closely to what your interviewer is saying or asking. Usually, there’s a word or phrase they use that you can adopt that indicates you are responding to the context of the question.
The Media Trainers®, LLC, has a Tough Questions eBook on our Web site that you can download free for easy reference.
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