By Gerard Braud –
I’m irritated by how Chris Wallace conducted his interview with Marco Rubio on Fox News Sunday. The media interview is generating a barrage of news stories about where Rubio stands on the issue of whether the U.S. should have invaded Iraq.
For the full context of this article, watch this clip being used by Rubio’s political opponents. It is an edited three-minute exchange with Chris Wallace, which amounts to a verbal tug of war.
This type of media interview could happen to anyone from a CEO, to a corporate spokesperson, to a political candidate like Rubio. Lightweight media training can never prepare a spokesperson for this type of an interview. High profile people need intense media training at a high level, which requires the trainer to be combative at a high level.
Here are 4 tips for dealing with a tough interview:
Tip 1: Study interviews from others like you who have been asked the same question. Just last week Jeb Bush stumbled on the same question. It appears Rubio studied the Bush interviews and was for the most part prepared to answer the question.
Tip 2: Challenge the reporter’s question when you don’t understand the question. I suggested this in my Jeb Bush article, and to his credit, Rubio did this, saying to Wallace at one point, “I don’t understand the question you are asking.”
Tip 3: Shut up and listen. When a reporter gets combative, as Wallace did, you have to decide when you are going to talk and when you are going to listen. At some point you must realize that when two people are talking over each other a lot of valuable airtime is being wasted on the verbal tug of war. As the guest, sometimes you need to listen to the reporter’s question and wait for him or her to finish before refining your answer. Wallace kept asking the vague question, “Was it a mistake to go to war in Iraq?” Rubio kept arguing over the semantics of the question.
Tip 4: When you’ve practiced your answers, as it appears Rubio has done, deliver the answer perfectly without feeling compelled to insert a spontaneous thought or verbal ad lib. My review of the interview shows that Rubio has a consistent set of answers to this question. In a nutshell, he has said that he would have invaded if he had been handed flawed information and that it would have been a mistake to invade if he had known the true facts. But in an attempt to end the verbal tug of war with Wallace, Rubio adlibs, “Based on what we know now I wouldn’t have thought Manny Pacquiao was going to get beat in that fight a few weeks ago…”
Ultimately, because of Wallace’s constant interruptions, Rubio would have needed to let Wallace finish and then answer with his rehearsed answer stated clearly, with parsed words, and delivered with as few words as possible. Such an answer sometimes requires the spokesperson to include their version of the question and answer for context, such as:
If the question is. ‘Do I support the decision to invade Iraq?’ my answer comes in two parts:
Part 1 – “If I had been given the same flawed information as President, I might have made the same flawed decision to invade.”
Part 2 – “If I had been given accurate information based on what we know now, I suspect that no president would have invaded at that time for those reasons.”
In conclusion, preparation for a potentially combative interview requires a high level of preparation and perfection, which requires extra training and practice.