This is from the BBC programme ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ and is the best guide I have seen. Print it off and then sit and watch a politician being interviewed. In almost any interview at least one of these ploys will be used and most often several of them will be used.
Eight Ways to Deal With Difficult Questions
1. Attack the Question. – ‘That’s a very silly question, how can you justify the use of the words “Above the Law”?’
2. Attack the Questioner. – ‘How many years have you spent in government?’
3. Compliment the question. – ‘that’s a very good question. I’d like to thank you for asking me it. Let me reply by asking you one.’
4. Unloading the question. – Most questions are loaded. They are full of assumptions such as ‘A lot of people have said that you consider yourself above the law’. There are two possible replies to such loaded questions:
a) Name Ten
b) Surely in a nation of 60 million people you can find a few people who will say anything no matter how irrelevant, misguided, or ill-informed.’
5. Make it all appear an act. – This approach only works for live TV interviews: ‘you know, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t agree with what you suggested I should answer when you asked me that question downstairs before the programme began. The real answer is…’
6. Use the time factor. – Most interviews are short of time, especially live ‘on air’ interviews. Reply: ‘That’s a very interesting question, and there are nine points I should like to make in answer to it.’ The Interviewer will say: ‘perhaps you could just make two of them, briefly.’ You say: ‘No its far too important a question to answer superficially, and if I can’t answer it properly I’d rather not trivialise it.’
7. Invoke Secrecy. – ‘There’s a very full answer to that question, but it involves matters that are being discussed in confidence. I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to break a confidence. So I’m afraid I can’t answer for another week or two.’
8. Take refuge in a long pointless narrative. – If you can ramble on long enough no one will remember the question and therefore no one can tell if you have answered it or not.
All of these are good ways to deal with difficult questions. If you have nothing to say then say nothing. However, better yet is to have something to say and say it, no matter what they ask you. Pay no attention to the question, make your own statement. If they ask you the same question again, you just say ‘that’s not the question’ or ‘I think the more important question is this:’ then make another statement of your own. Easy-peasy.