Did I Really Say That?

An old trick that some journalists use is to try to put words in your mouth. This can lead to unintended, negative quotes appearing, so watch what you say; you don’t have to leave it to the journalist to frame the debate. Frequently they will use a negative or pejorative word or phrase in their question, and your natural instinct will usually be to refute it. But as you do so, you may be unintentionally giving the reporter a very defensive-sounding quote – such as: “Your critics say your behaviour’s been very devious in this case?” “Well I wouldn’t say we’ve been devious, but …” Devious is far from the word you would have chosen, but now you’ve used it, it’s probably the word that will appear in the headline – ‘xxx denies devious behaviour’. Better not to repeat the offending term – use your own words instead, for example “I believe we did the right thing in the circumstances …”