When you’re doing a media interview and the reporter asks you a question you’d rather not answer, never say “no comment.”
The only thing that’s worse than that response is trying to embarrass the reporter by asking an unrelated question so preposterous that it’s designed to throw him off guard. People who do that usually end up embarrassing themselves.
Thanks to Sharon Dotson of Bayou City Public Relations in Houston, Texas who sent a link to a video interview conducted by investigative reporter Elliott Davis of WTVI Channel 2 in St. Louis, Missouri back in 2002. Elliott hosts a segment called “You Paid for It” in which he uncovers government waste and corruption.
In this particular interview, he was asking St. Charles County Executive Joe Ortwerth about the battle between Ortwerth and county judges over the new $5.3 million county justice center that had been standing vacant for several months. The judges wanted metal detectors and a full security detail in the building.
Ortwerth refused. Taxpayers were left paying for utilities and other expenses while the disagreement wound its way through the courts.
When the reporter asked Ortwerth about the squabble, Ortwerth first said he would answer questions but only if the reporter submitted them in writing.
When Elliott Davis persisted with his questions, Ortwerth asked: “Do you know that Jesus loves you, Elliott?”
“Yes, and I love Jesus,” Davis replied. Then he kept questioning Ortwerth. The county executive continued digging a deeper hole for himself with responses and questions related to Jesus.
Instead of trying to embarrass the reporter, the politician ended up embarrassing himself. Not only did his responses make him look guilty, wimpy, cowardly and unable and unwilling to come to his own defense, they made him look clueless.
Davis, on the other hand, appeared cool, calm, collected—and completely in charge of the interview. That, in turn, gave the investigation more credence.
If you know which questions to expect during an interview, you’ll be better prepared to answer them. See “Special Report #2: Questions You Can Expect Reporters to Ask During an Interview.”