Longtime member of congress and new presidential candidate Lindsey Graham has come under fire recently for saying he would have a rotating casts of First ladies, if he is elected president (The 59 year old Senator has never been married).
One Republican Senate college went so far as to call Graham “The bro with no ho!”
Now, Graham is defending himself. Here is what he said to Politico when asked about his single status:
” I very much have family — my aunt and uncle, I try to take care of because they took care of me. There are millions of people who are single. I don’t think they need to answer, “Why are you single?”
“It’s something I really don’t know the answer to, other than I think it’s OK. At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong about not being married. Having a marriage and a good family and children is a blessing. But I don’t think I’m a defective person by any means.”
When you read his whole quote, it appears to be a reasonable, intelligent, candid and honest answer that gives you a good feeling about the Senator.
However, the quote that is now appearing on Vox.com and a gazillion other places is this:
“I don’t think I’m a defective person”: Lindsey Graham’s moving defense of being single – Vox
What does the casual reader see” Graham saying he doesn’t think he is defective, kind of like Richard Nixon saying “I’m not a crook.”
What is the bottom line? Voters seeing “Graham” and “Defective” linked.
Graham committed a fundamental PR blunder: if you give a long nuanced answer to a question and you use attacking words, especially if they are directed at yourself, the only thing that will get in the headline and often the quote itself will be you attacking yourself.
Graham is a savvy politician who rose to the Senate primarily through his ability to generate TV coverage for himself attacking Bill Clinton. So he knows the power of an attacking sound bite.
How should Graham have answered the question? The same way he did, minus the final sentence where he said he didn’t think he was defective.
He should have described his lifestyle in entirely positive terms; not by defending himself by using other people’s negative assumptions and words.
TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide. You can find his online training courses here. https://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/online-training.html