Herman Cain: What Value Is There in the Media's Gotcha Questions?


At the end of every press conference, here they come. The questions designed not to secure information, but to spring a trap and catch the president in some sort of embarrassing moment.

Why didn’t you mandate testing for seniors sooner?

Why didn’t you institute mandatory testing?

What do you tell families who’ve lost loved ones?

Why does it matter if we’re doing more testing than any other country?

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Why didn’t you order a lockdown sooner?

What did you know and when did you know it?

On and on and on these questions go. And you’ll notice something about every single one of them: There is no way you can answer these questions in a way that provides any value to the American people.

A journalist’s job is to obtain and report information that’s of value to readers. You know they’ve done their job well when their stories contain information that makes you better informed about the things that matter – to you, and to the nation in general.

Do you think reporters at the White House are doing the American people a disservice?

I once heard an experienced reporter make a great observation about the questions journalists sometimes ask. He said that reporters often talk about asking “the tough questions,” but the tough questions are not always the questions that yield the best information.

There’s a lot of information people need in order to make their way through this crisis. The White House press corps could be spending their time at these briefings asking about these things. Where people can go to be tested. How people can safely keep working. Where people can go for help. What’s being done to make progress toward a vaccine.

All of this would be of tremendous value to the public.

But none of it is what we get when their question time starts. Almost every question is like the ones you see listed above. They are designed to produce recriminations, not information. They are designed to embarrass President Trump and convince the American public that he has done a terrible job leading us through this crisis.

The usual themes tend to apply over and over. They either suggest he should have taken some sort of action sooner (even though he probably didn’t have the information he needed), or that he should have been a fortune teller and foreseen certain things that no one could foresee, or that he should have exercised a takeover of the private sector.

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They’re not really questions so much as they’re points of argument about events that have already happened. The president could stand there and engage in a point/counterpoint debate with the reporters, but what good would that do anyone? The point of the press conference is to provide the public with the information it needs. It’s a waste of time when the journalists start asking questions because their questions do nothing to bring that information forth.

This is one reason President Trump abruptly ended Monday’s press conference early. It had devolved into nothing but a shouting match, with one reporter from CNN repeatedly shouting above others the president was trying to call on. It was all about who wanted attention and who could score the most brutal hit on the president.

I know they think they’re doing their jobs by “speaking truth to power” or whatever, but what they’re not doing is informing the public. They’re not gathering information, verifying it, sourcing it and reporting it to the people in a way that the people can actually use.

The press usually responds to criticisms like this by claiming the critics are attacking them and trying to destroy the First Amendment. I am doing no such thing. I want a free press that reports important information, fearlessly, to the American people.

And I wish these poseurs would exit the premises so real ones could show up and do just that.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Herman Cain is former CEO of the National Restaurant Association and a former presidential candidate. He is also an author, business executive, radio host and syndicated columnist.