Just What Is a ‘Gotcha’ Question?

“It was almost like feral dogs…a pack mentality, it seemed, was unleashed.”

By Rhonda FanningOctober 30, 2015 9:46 pm

On Sunday, representatives of several GOP presidential candidates, fresh from the third republican debate, plan to gather for what may turn into something of a mutiny against the party.

They’re frustrated by how the Republican national committee is handling the debates and several campaigns want to gain more control over the process, which they see as unruly and ill-fitted to their interests. Perhaps it’s a polite way of saying they don’t like the questions.

On another note, current front runner Ben Carson put the finer point on it, telling reporters in Colorado yesterday, “what it has turned into is a gotcha.”

Is a gotcha question what a frustrated politician says when he or she doesn’t know the answer, or is it something real?

Author, longtime reporter, and University of Texas at Austin journalism professor Bill Minutaglio talks to the Standard.

“It’s an old trope: when in doubt, attack the media,” he says, referencing the ‘horserace’ type of coverage. “They seize on it and that’s really what happened as I saw it in the debate. It was almost like feral dogs…a pack mentality, it seemed, was unleashed.”

Is there a unique kind of question that constitutes a ‘gotcha’?

“I think if it’s a true jack-in-the-box question that starts to veer towards the personal and frankly, really doesn’t have a very clear cut answer, I think that’s getting in the realm of ‘gotcha,'” Minutaglio says.

For Minutaglio, there wasn’t a lot of ‘gotcha’ in this week’s debate.

“The questions were provocative and people have called them frivolous, but I like to see how people react…when they’re asked questions that are unsettling and uncomfortable,” he says. “I wanna see how people handle the pressure and how they rebound and really what they did was begin attacking the messenger— or the questioner in this case— and avoiding the questions over and over and over again.”

Listen to the full audio in the player above.