How Judge Sonia Sotomayor Mastered the Broken Record

It is a rule of media training that despite the questions a reporter asks, you return or “bridge” back to your original point.  Like a broken record, you repeat your message over and over again as a fact that can’t be disputed.  If you stay “on message,” as they say in politics, eventually your point of view becomes embedded in the minds of your target audiences, moving them to your side of the argument (hopefully).  Judge Sonia Sotomayor has learned this lesson well.

Taking a page from President Obama’s playbook – his message as a candidate was a consistent “it’s time for change” – she has deftly deflected the parries of Senators on the Senate Judicial Committee who are trying their best to trap her into saying she would allow her personal biases to affect her decisions if she were to become a Supreme Court Justice.  She has basically repeated a variation of these words again and again, “”My record shows that at no point or time have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence the outcome of a case.”   She has also followed the rule of not answering hypothetical questions.  Senators have tried that gambit, but she has been up to the challenge.

You can only use the Broken Record technique if what you are saying is true.  It does no good for a murderer to repeatedly claim, “I didn’t do it” when he is caught with a smoking gun standing over the victim.  Conservatives and liberals who used a fine-toothed comb to pore through Judge Sotomayor’s decisions on the bench over the past 17 years have discovered, in fact, that in the vast majority of cases she has ruled against plaintiffs in affirmative action disputes.

Throughout today’s proceedings she has kept her cool.  No doubt she will be glad to don her judicial robe and return to the bench where it will be she who is asking the pointed questions.

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  1. Jeannette,
    A wonderful article and a marvelous website. Warmest congratulations and best of luck.

  2. Jeannette, this made me recall the media training days you led for many Citigate clients. You’ll be glad to know I regularly put to use your tips and techniques when I prep my United Way spokespeople. I wonder if that Bob Newhart video has made it to YouTube yet.