Terror Babies in Texas

Babies are the newest terror threat.

Debbie Riddle, Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, claims that pregnant women are coming into the country as tourists, having babies, and then going back home with “…the nefarious purpose of turning them into little terrorists who will then come back to the U.S. and do us harm.”

She discussed her claim on CNN with Anderson Cooper earlier this month, and did fine in the interview until she was asked for proof. Then she unraveled.

After the clip, I’ll review what went wrong and how she could have saved herself.

Here are three reasons Ms. Riddle failed the interview:

1. She Lost Control: When under fire, spokespersons need to demonstrate their competence by remaining in control. Watch Ms. Riddle’s vocal tone and body language at the beginning of the interview. She was calm, collected, and in control. Contrast that with her appearance 9:40 into the interview, when she flails her arms, uses overly-emphatic gestures, and looks angry.

2. She Got Defensive: When pressed for evidence, Ms. Riddle tried several different answers, finally blaming the producers: “[The producers] did not tell me that you were going to grill me for specific information that I was not ready to give to you tonight. They did not tell me that, sir.”

3. She Bombed the Pre-Interview: Ms. Riddle admits she told CNN’s producers about terror babies in the “preliminary” (pre-interview). It never occurred to her that they might ask her about it during the actual interview? She likely could have eliminated “terror babies” as a topic altogether by telling the producers that her main focus was on broader immigration issues.

So what should Ms. Riddle have done? When Anderson Cooper asked her for evidence the first time, she could have said: “You know, Anderson, our office does have evidence. Unfortunately, I don’t have it with me tonight. I’ll get the information to you by tomorrow night’s broadcast so you can share our evidence with your viewers. But this is actually part of a much larger issue …”