Over the course of a long, intense political campaign, candidates will get testy and flustered at times. It's inevitable.
However, when those emotions are captured on television and subsequently shared and seen by millions, core messages are bound to get buried, as the messenger himself or herself becomes the story.
Leading into the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky., that’s the situation facing Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan as he prepares to face Joe Biden in their first and only meeting.
According to reports, on Monday, Oct. 8, Ryan was interviewed by ABC 12 in Flint, Mich. The reporter interviewing Ryan asked: “Does this country have a gun problem?”
In response, Ryan said that “this country has a crime problem” and that “good, strong gun laws” are in place “but we have to make sure we enforce our laws.”
After Ryan clarified his position, which included helping people get out of the poverty line in inner cities and helping to teach discipline and good character, the reporter responded with: “And you can do all that by cutting taxes?”
After telling the reporter that “those are your words, not mine," Ryan abruptly ended the interview at the instructions of an off-screen aide.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said: "The reporter knew he was already well over the allotted time for the interview when he decided to ask a weird question relating gun violence to tax cuts. Ryan responded as anyone would in such a strange situation. When you do nearly 200 interviews in a couple months, eventually you’re going to see a local reporter embarrass himself."
Predictably, the Democratic opposition jumped at the chance to capitalize on the incident. DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse tweeted, “@woodhouseb: You can walk out of an interview if you don’t like a press question? This is a game changer—way to be a leader Congressman Paul Ryan. ”
How much of a distraction and game changer is it really? A distraction, yes, a game changer, probably not. But from the perspective a media trainer, there's always a better response than walking out on an interview.
“It was bad form. There’s probably a more graceful way [Ryan] could have gone about it,” says Andrew Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group. “If Ryan is anything like his running mate was in the first debate, he’ll be prepared for [tough questions] from Biden.”
Ryan has to be focused on supporting Romney’s message, says Gilman. “He needs to show that a 42-year-old can be a heartbeat away (from the presidency)."
Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson