Tough questions from the media need to be addressed and need to be answered. It rarely helps to be seen as someone who can't give a direct answer. But there are some questions that probably shouldn't be answered, because of the way they're asked.
If you get a question from a reporter that presupposes a certain point of view that you feel is incorrect or inappropriate, than you need to clarify that right up front. We teach our clients to rephrase the question.
Rephrasing the question allows you to sidestep volatile language or an either-or scenario that's not valid.
Correct the underlying assumption
You might say something like, "Well, what I think you're really asking is..." and then go on to ask the question in a more straight forward manner before stating your answer. This allows you to correct the underlying assumption implicit in the question and also gives you the opportunity to get in your key message point.
Offer your own question
Another option is to simply dismiss the question as irrelevant and offer one of your own. You would say, "Well, that's not the point," or "That's not what's going on here. The real question is whether...."
Avoid difficult language
Rephrasing the question allows you to sidestep volatile language or an either-or scenario that's not valid. It also gives you the opportunity to educate the reporter and the public about your issue. Most important, it helps to keep you from straying off message.
Stay in control
Be careful. You can't do this with every question or it will get old fast. But, at a key moment, rephrasing the question can go a long way toward helping you stay in control of your message.
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