|"Was it something I said?"|
Akin's claim that a woman has a built-in kill switch to stop pregnancy during rape resulted in nearly universal condemnation. Besides being wrong about the physiological facts, his comments trivialized rape and blamed women for either lying about their assault or secretly wanting to get pregnant.
For the majority of people Akin's comments revealed all they needed to know to make a judgement. His double-digit lead in the polls evaporated overnight. Technically, Akin's comments aren't even a gaffe because he meant to say what he said. When you heard it you had the sense that he really believed it. In doing that, he rendered a useful service rare among politicians: he let the good people of Missouri know what he really thought.
Let's move away from politics. Not everything is a Freudian slip. Sometimes people just misspeak. I media train people every week and the fear making a mistake looms large in nearly every training room where I work. People beat themselves up for making the smallest mistakes and they believe they've failed if they weren't perfect.
No interview is ever perfect
I've done around 3,000 live newscasts, both television and radio, in my life. None of them were perfect. Some were awesome. I mispronounced my own name in one of them. Most were not memorable.
Since you're likely to make a mistake, focus on techniques to correct them when you make them.
Three tips to fix your "gaffe"
The first thing you can do when you realize you've misspoken is to stop talking. If you stop talking, the reporter has no news. Stop. Tell the reporter you've lost your train of thought and then re-start.
The second thing you can do is ask the reporter to ask you the question again so you can give a better answer. In most cases, a reporter will give you the chance to clarify your answer if you are honest about the fact that you weren't happy with your first go at it. They get a good story with good information from you.
The third tip to keep you from being gaffe-tastic is to use a pause. So many people think they have to begin speaking the microsecond a reporter's question ends that they stop thinking. Let the reporter ask the question. Listen to the whole thing. Take a breath and begin your answer.
Those tips can help keep your routine interview from becoming a viral video.
The other thing that can help is not citing as "fact" information that can be refuted by reading a middle school health textbook.