Question of the Week: When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

If there’s one cliché question that people associate with media training, it’s this one: “When did you stop beating your wife?”

It’s offered as an example of an (almost) impossible question to answer well, since most people will look guilty when they deny the charge. Imagine, for example, that Senator Smith answers the question by saying:

“I’m offended by that. I never beat my wife, and how dare you suggest that.”

 

The banner headline will inevitably be dreadful, something like:

“SENATOR SMITH: ‘I NEVER BEAT MY WIFE’”

The classic answer that most media trainers offer is a simple one: “I never started.” But even though that answer helps avoid a dreadful headline, it’s always left me a little cold. It feels just a bit too clever and a bit too inhuman.

So here’s this week’s question of the week: What’s the best answer to the classic media training question: “When did you stop beating your wife?”

Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below. I’ll summarize some of your responses in a new post later this week.

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