As Paul Ryan learned last week, words matter. Especially if you want to prevent a media firestorm.
In response to Trump’s comments about a judge’s inability to rule fairly in the Trump University case given his Mexican-American heritage, Ryan said:
“Claiming a person can’t do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Cue the madness.
In addition to asking whether you think Trump’s comments are “racist,” reporters can NOW add “do you agree with Paul Ryan’s labeling of Trump’s comments as ‘racist’?” Two tough questions to navigate and answer well.
Ryan is in a tough spot, and the rightness of his response only depends on what he’s trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, if his goal was to bury the issue, Ryan did the opposite by using the word “racist.”
Because crisis management is real life, and you’ll likely have to tread lightly at some point, what do you say if you’re asked to comment on bad behavior and hope to bury the issue in the process?
Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.
Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:
Q: “Do you think Trump’s comments were racist?”
B²: “Many, including myself, find Trump’s rhetoric appalling/deplorable. But ultimately it’s the voters who will have the final word on what he says as well as what he plans to do on issues like <insert talking point>.”
Wherever you take the conversation next, DO NOT insert words or phrases that allow the media to define the narrative. Remain truthful, but benign in order to bury the issue. And then pivot to your talking points to redirect the conversation. The question the reporter asked Ryan didn’t include the word “racist.” It was his decision to use it in his answer. A decision that many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill most likely won’t appreciate.