Recently, Sen. Ted Cruz was interviewed by Mark Halperin on Bloomberg TV. During the interview, Halperin asked numerous questions related to Cruz’ ethnicity and then essentially demanded that Cruz speak Spanish to another politician.
Now, Cruz is getting a great deal of sympathy-something hard to imagine-and Halperin is getting vilified. Here is a typical reaction:
“I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche — all to prove the Republican is really Cuban,” the columnist Ruben Navarrette wrote in The San Jose Mercury News.
While I typically advise executives and politicians who are being interviewed, I also advise journalists from time to time on how to come across their best (no, Mark Halperin is not a client).
One piece of advice I believe in is this: Interviewees should not try to tell reporters how to ask questions (take note Rand Paul) AND reporters should not try to tell their interview subjects how to answer questions.
So yes, Halperin screwed up by trying to tell Cruz that he must answer in Spanish. I also think it is a huge mistake for reporters, especially during debates, to try to tell politicians to answer “yes or no” or in “five words or less” or in any other artificial limitation.
Everyone is better off on both sides of the camera if they respect their specific roles. Journalists should be able to ask questions anyway they please. Politicians and executives should be able to answer questions anyway they please.
TJ Walker produces in-person and online media training workshops for executives, politicians and journalists. https://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/online-training.html