Reporters love to put negative words in the mouths of people they interview. Why? Generally, this practice gives control of the interview to the reporter. More specifically, those negative words often lead to a great soundbite or quote for the reporter but one that doesn’t play well for the person being interviewed. It’s one of the media traps that we teach our clients to avoid.

Controversial Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene stepped squarely into this trap in an interview with CNN. The republican Greene has been threatening to force a vote to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson over his pending decision to allow a vote for Ukraine funding and other issues that have created a legislative bottleneck in Congress. Many observers blame Greene and House republicans for the bottleneck.

During the interview Greene was asked if she’s worried about congressional chaos in the middle of an election year. The reporter was almost certainly hoping Greene would repeat the phrase, especially the word “chaos” because it would help make for a compelling soundbite. In the clip below, watch how Greene doesn’t disappoint the reporter.

Yes, we know Greene is a lightening rod on Capitol Hill. She is admired by some, despised by others. But regardless of Greene’s political standing, her repeating the word “chaos” almost certainly angered many of her republican colleagues because it made them look incapable of governing.

So, how should Greene have answered the question while maintaining transparency? There were multiple ways. She could have said, “Yes, that’s a concern, but my focus is on working with my fellow republicans to unify the party.” Or she might have responded, “That’s not my focus right now. My priority is to implement our republican agenda.” Those are just two of the many potential responses she could have given without using words the reporter essentially put in her mouth.

If you deal with media, watch out for this trap. Don’t let a reporter manipulate you into using words and phrases that you didn’t intend to use. Learn to deliver key messages, using your words, not the reporter’s.