Should you out debate the host? Respond to aggressive questions with even more aggressive responses? Challenge the host’s unfair bias?
Well, sure, those things can work in certain situations, but there’s a much easier technique that most spokespersons never consider.
Ted Koppel, my former boss and the longtime host of ABC’s Nightline, once said that an audience’s allegiance is to the interviewer, not the person being interviewed—at least at the beginning. That makes sense: People who tune in to Bill O’Reilly probably tune in because they like him, just as people who tune in to Rachel Maddow probably like her.
But if the viewer begins to perceive that the interviewer is being unfair, the host will lose his or her audience, and sympathy will shift to the person being interviewed. You don’t have to do anything dramatic for that to happen. It happens on its own.
The stunning interview posted below, from 2009, is one of my favorite examples of this dynamic at work.