Why you lose if you break off an interview because you don't like the questions
Ivanka Trump is helping me answer a question I sometimes get from our media training participants, about why they can't tell journalists what questions they can and cannot ask, and why they can't just walk out of an interview if they don't like the questions.
Trump is helping me answer this, thanks to her controversial interview with Cosmopolitan, where reporter Prachi Gupta asked her about her father's just-released child care and maternity leave plan.
The key excerpt:
Gupta: In 2004, Donald Trump said that pregnancy is an inconvenient thing for a business. It's surprising to see this policy from him today. Can you talk a little about those comments, and perhaps what was changed?
Trump: So I think that you have a lot of negativity in these questions, and I think my father has put forth a very comprehensive and really revolutionary plan to deal with a lot of issues. So I don’t know how useful it is to spend too much time with you on this if you're going to make a comment like that. [she continues talking about her father's track record].
Gupta: I would like to say that I'm sorry the questions – you're finding them negative, but it is relevant that a presidential candidate made those comments, so I'm just following up.
Trump: Well, you said he made those comments. I don't know that he said those comments.
Gupta goes on to reference her question to an NBC interview from 2004.
But let's go back to why this is significant for spokespeople.
One of the central parts of our media training is practise in our own television studio in the Central Business District. Participants are put to the test under various conditions (ignorant interviewers, wolves, rookies, and others) and different media (print, television).
This example shows that if you get sulky with an interviewer, your combative interview – rather than the interview topic – becomes the news. Ivanka Trump's responses now dominate the discussion. Donald Trump's child care and maternity leave plan takes a back seat.
Breaking off an interview because you don't like the questions says a lot about you: that you are thin-skinned, that you are unwilling to take responsibility, that you are in denial, that you are feeling under siege.
Worse, when you read the interview it's clear that it isn't Gupta who's the unreasonable one. Gupta's questions weren't even that difficult. They were logical and sensible, and her interview style deferential and polite.
Trump didn't need Gupta to make a fool of herself. Trump managed that well enough on her own.