CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin this morning welcomed Ohio congressional hopeful Samuel Wurzelbacher (“Joe the Plumber”) to a grilling on his positions on homosexuality. She cited some quotes that he’d given to Christianity Today back in 2009, including this one:
I’ve had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they’re people, and they’re going to do their thing.
Sambolin then followed classic news-anchoring protocol, asking the candidate if he’s sticking to that line of thinking. Wurzelbacher didn’t like the drift, accusing CNN of acting like TMZ. Some bickering ensued, and then Wurzelbacher leveled this whopper of a charge:
“You’re trying to do a gotcha moment. It’s quite obvious.”
Sambolin was having none of it:
“No, no, it’s not a gotcha moment.”
Poor “gotcha.” Wikipedia calls it a strain of inquiry “designed to entrap interviewees into making statements which are damaging or discreditable to their cause, character, integrity, or reputation.” Sarah Palin calls it a genre of “trip-up questions.” Urban Dictionary goes with “simple, straight-forward questions that cannot be answered by inept politicians.”
Whatever the interpretation, Sambolin clearly “got” Wurzelbacher with this one — to the point that a “gotcha” charge was his only feasible defense. With each such iteration, guys like Wurzelbacher are rehabilitating the “gotcha” strain of journalism. Next time, Sambolin should consider saying, “Yeah, it’s a gotcha question — now answer it!”