ISSA Proceedings 2010 – Gendering The Rhetoric Of Emotions In Interviews: Argumentation And Counter-Argumentation
Media interviews carried out during election campaigns provide an important resource for documenting the communication styles and strategies of political candidates. These interviews are important communication tools consisting of a question-answer based dialogue in which the interviewer is acting as a mediator between the interviewee and the audience. Political journalists and reporters are assuming an increasingly influential role through the impact their rhetorical strategies have on both the politicians’ careers and on the choices made by electors. In interviews they often resort to rhetorically manipulative tactics that exert decisive influence on the politicians’ performance and image, as well as on the audience’s perception and emotions.
As more women are entering the political arena, a number of gender-related aspects are becoming apparent in the rhetorical style and argumentative strategies used in both mixed-gender and same-gender interviews. According to common stereotypes, women tend to express their emotions more often, experience their emotions more intensely and show greater emotional awareness. As visual prompts (pictures, ads, streaming video) are increasingly used in framing an interviewee’s personality and roles, mainstream media coverage of women politicians still emphasises their traditional roles as wives and mothers and focuses on their appearance, dressing styles, and personal lives. The depth and quality of media coverage of women is still inadequate in that it exhibits pervasive stereotypical thinking that leads to gender-specific expectations and evaluations. Thus, while rationality and assertive attitude are highlighted as positively-valued masculine traits, soft emotions are most frequently associated with socially desirable traits in women. Women’s emotional manifestations are often assumed to involve the expression of tender feelings and empathy for the feelings of others. Gender biases disseminated by the media are significant because they can have electoral consequences. At a time when politics is thoroughly mediatised, voters respond to candidates largely in accordance with information (and entertainment) received from mass media.
2. Aim and method
In principle, the interviewer’s role is to ask questions that trigger the interviewee’s beliefs and opinions for the sake of the intended audience. In political interviews politicians are expected to answer the interviewer’s questions and at the same time use the opportunity to promote their own agenda for the benefit of the overhearing audience. But usually interviewers too have their own agenda and this is why their questions are rhetorically framed in a manipulative way so as to elicit particular answers and responses, since their end-goal is to trigger emotional reactions in the overhearing audience. In order to reach this goal, interviewers often confront their interviewees with questions that become argumentative in that they probe into the emotions of the interviewees, while appealing to the emotions of the audience.
Women politicians often face a ‘double bind’ when running for office: if they enact the masculine qualities needed to convey strength and decisiveness, they appear “unfeminine”; yet if they do not display such qualities, they are considered to be too weak and unsuited for the tough job of politics. Maurizia Boscagli (1992/3: 75) pointed out: “While a man who cries is a human being, a woman who cries is a woman.”
The present analysis concerns one particular interview conducted by a female CBS journalist, Katie Couric, with Hillary Clinton, the first female contender for the White House in 2008. The focus is on the biased ways in which the interviewee’s emotions are perceived, evaluated, and exploited by the interviewer to trigger a particular image of the interviewee, and consequently particular audience reactions. By mapping the recurring appeals to emotions used by Couric, the analysis shows that her questions acquire varying degrees of fallacious argumentativeness.
The aim is to show how the argumentative and rhetorical framing of interview questions and responses contributes to reinforcing, as well as refuting, gender roles and stereotypes. The analysis draws on an integrated pragma-rhetorical approach (Ilie 2006, 2009a) used in a gender perspective. This approach makes use of the analytical tools of rhetoric and argumentation theory that integrate complementary perspectives on both reasoning and emotional processes involved in gendered patterns of discourse and behaviour in dialogic interaction.
3. Gendering emotions in political campaign interviews
Extensive research data (Gal 1991, Case 1994, Tannen 1994) provides evidence that men’s communication styles are institutionalised as acknowledged ways of acting with authority and that most institutions enforce the legitimacy of behaviour and interaction strategies used by men. The institution of the presidency is by tradition male-driven and male-run, and it thus reinforces and creates expectations for conventional masculine attributes of strength, determination, and decisiveness. Hillary Clinton was the leading candidate competing for the Democratic nomination in opinion polls for the election throughout the first half of 2007. By the end of the year the race tightened considerably, and Clinton started losing her lead in some polls by December. In early January 2008 Obama gained ground in national polling, with all polls predicting a victory for him in the New Hampshire primary. However, Clinton surprisingly won there on January 8, defeating Obama by a narrow margin.
Speculations about her New Hampshire comeback varied but centered mostly on the sympathy she received, especially from women, after her eyes welled with tears and her voice broke at a coffee shop in Portsmouth, N.H., where Hillary Clinton became emotional the day before the election while responding to a woman voter’s question: “How did you get out the door every day? I mean, as a woman, I know how hard it is to get out of the house and get ready.” Clinton said: “I just don’t want to see us fall backward as a nation. I mean, this is very personal for me. Not just political. I see what’s happening. We have to reverse it.” This may well have been the only moment in that campaign when Clinton publicly displayed vulnerability and frustration, but it triggered endless discussions in the media. As a female presidential candidate, Clinton was subject to the predicament of the double-bind. The same people who had been complaining that she is cold and unemotional were now seizing the occasion to treat her unique emotional moment as a sign of weakness and vulnerability.
4. Disagreement about a female presidential candidate’s emotions
The focus of the present analysis is on the interview aired on the CBS Evening News on the 9th of January 2008 after Hillary Clinton’s victory over Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary. The interviewer, Katie Couric, is a well-known American journalist, who led CBS News’ coverage of the 2008 Presidential election. Couric was already known as a tough interviewer, violating certain gender stereotypes about women being cooperative and consensus-seeking. The interviewee, Hillary Clinton, is an equally determined and strong-minded woman, well-known as the former First Lady of the United States (married to former U.S. President Bill Clinton), and United States Senator from New York.
4.1 Rhetorical emotion elicitation
Couric starts the interview by asking Clinton, who was lagging behind in the opinion polls at the beginning of January 2008, to explain why the polls were not able to anticipate her victory in the New Hampshire primary. The first question is illustrated in extract 1 below.
K. Couric: How though, how could so many polls get it so wrong?
H. Clinton: I know that New Hampshire is fiercely independent. I came in there with a very, you know, big problem, as we know. And I just determined that I was gonna dig down deep and reach out and listen and talk and do what I have always done, which is what makes me get up in the morning. That is to figure out how I could tell people what I want to do to serve them. Because I always believe it’s, you know, it’s about service for other people. So when I began to talk about what I wanted to do and answer people’s questions. I took hundreds of questions from Friday until late on Monday, it really began to connect and I could see that people were really going to give me a fair hearing.
Taking into consideration Clinton’s unexpected victory, Couric’s question may seem fully justified at first sight. However, on closer examination, it becomes apparent that the question is not a straightforward information-eliciting question (Ilie 1994, 1999) in the sense that the questioner does not ask the interviewee to provide any particular piece of information, but rather expresses a strong feeling of surprise with the intention to elicit an emotional response. The statement underlying this question could be paraphrased as: ‘I cannot see any reasonable explanation as to why the polls were so wrong. And I want to hear your opinion’. Obviously, one of Couric’s purposes in this interview is to challenge the interviewee, Hillary Clinton, to reveal emotional reactions and personal comments.
What appears less justified is that, in spite of the Hillary Clinton’s newly recorded victory in the New Hampshire primary, Couric’s first question does not insist on the importance of this achievement, but on its unpredictability. In other words, Couric chooses to ignore what was ‘positive’ about Clinton’s victory against all odds and to focus on what was ‘negative’ about the polls.
Rhetorically, an important distinction was made by Quintilian (1943) between two main interrogative strategies: (i) to ask, i.e. to require information by means of a straightforward question, and (ii) to enquire, i.e. to emphasise a point in order to prove something by means of a rhetorical figure, such as a rhetorical question. Pragmatically, the distinction can only be made in context, since there are no specific linguistic indicators that can differentiate the two types of questions (Ilie 1994). A relevant illustration of this distinction is provided in Couric’s question in (1): taken out of context, the question can lend itself to either interpretation, but in the present context it can only be interpreted as a rhetorical question. And this is how Hillary Clinton, the addressed interviewee, has interpreted it. Her response reveals personal details at the interface of her public sphere identity [“And I just determined that I was gonna dig down deep and reach out and listen and talk and do what I have always done”], and her private sphere identity [“which is what makes me get up in the morning.”]. Unlike Couric, who simply sees Clinton’s victory as contradicting the opinion polls, the latter knows that it is the result of a constant and determined political struggle: “I took hundreds of questions from Friday until late on Monday, it really began to connect and I could see that people were really going to give me a fair hearing.”
4.2 Rhetorical emotion attribution
With the exception of the first question in Extract 1, Couric uses the interview to focus on one topic only, namely the interpretations, re-interpretations, implications and potential consequences of the Clinton’s emotions revealed during the episode in Portsmouth prior to the New Hampshire primary. Although initially the alleged goal of the interview was to question and scrutinise a presidential candidate about topical issues relevant to the election campaign in general and to the New Hampshire primary in particular, Clinton is faced with emotion-eliciting questions that are being asked of her simply because she is a woman:
K. Couric: Some observers believe that moment when you got emotional on Monday, when your voice cracked and your eyes welled up, that that humanized you and made you much more attractive to women voters.
H. Clinton: You know, I’m someone who is pretty much other-directed. I want to know what is happening with you and what we can do to help you, and that moment, which obviously I’ve heard a lot about since, gave people maybe some insight into the fact that I don’t see politics as a game. You know, I don’t see it as some kind of a travelling entertainment show where, you know, you get up and you perform and then you go on to the next venue. You know, for me it is a way of figuring out what we stand for, what our values are, and getting in a position to actually help people and I take it really seriously and I think people kind of got that for the first time, because I know that there are a lot of questions and I’m trying more to get over sort of my natural reserve which is sort of who I am and where I come from, to give people a little better understanding of why I do this.
Whereas in the preceding Extract 1, Couric’s question was rhetorical and not a straightforward question, in Extract 2 she does not even ask a question. What she does instead is to provide a reported description of Clinton’s emotional behaviour: “that moment… that humanized you“. The statement, which may seem positively intended, is in fact implicitly confirming a stereotypical image of Clinton as cold and unemotional. By means of the reported statement, Couric uses emotion attribution in a manipulative way. Emotion attribution can be problematic, especially when it concerns individuals who are acting at the interface of the private and the public sphere, as in Clinton’s case. Moreover, Couric is undoubtedly aware that emotion attribution makes it possible to trigger particular mental states and emotions in the audience, which in its turn contributes to rhetorical changes in people’s perceptions and attitudes. In her response, Clinton gives her personal account of what happened during those emotional moments, trying to provide a more nuanced image of herself: on the one hand, she is “someone who is pretty much other-directed”, on the other, someone who is trying “to get over sort of my natural reserve”. An important point made by Clinton in this response is that interpersonal engagement with others, as well as responses to others, is what produces emotion. While Couric persists in highlighting the irrational side of emotions, Clinton emphasises their rational side.
4.3 ‘Slippery slope’ fallacy
As the interview progresses, Couric insists on confronting Clinton with further challenges on the same topic as in extract 2 – the emotional moment on the day before the New Hampshire primary – , as illustrated below:
K. Couric: Where did that come from, though, that moment? There was a sense that perhaps you were feeling so discouraged and frustrated and exhausted, and perhaps even seeing this thing that you worked so hard for, slipping away.
H. Clinton: That’s not how it felt to me, you know, I go out and I meet on a campaign day hundreds, if not thousands of people. And I’m always asking them: How are you, what are you doing, what do you need or what do you think, and when I was asked that it felt like there was this real connection, it was so touching to me, it was about how we are all in this together, you know. We have to start understanding that the problems we have as a country are eminently solvable, number one, but number two, we’ve got to be more sympathetic, we’ve got to be more empathetic.
The question in extract 3 is obviously not information-eliciting, but rather confession-eliciting in the sense that it is meant to prompt Clinton’s further disclosures and personal reactions. With regard to the elicitation process, a parallel could be drawn between Couric’s interviewing strategy and the ‘talking out’ practice of A’ara speakers of the Santa Isabel island, as reported by White (1990). The practice is known as graurutha, or ‘disentangling’, by means of which family members or village mates meet together to talk about interpersonal conflicts and ‘bad feelings’. The purpose of this talk is to make bad feelings public so as to defuse their destructive potential. Disentangling is an institutionalised event in which people are encouraged to talk about conflicts and resentments that need to be sorted out. With regard to the ‘talking out’ ritual, a comparison was made in Ilie (2001) between a therapy session and a talk show, since “a major purpose of talk shows is to get people to speak out and to create public awareness about current problems” (p. 217), while the show host can often be seen to act as a therapist. However, there is an essential difference between the disentangling practice and the talk show media event: whereas disentangling is purposefully carried out primarily for the benefit of the persons ‘talking out’ and thereby for their community, the ‘pseudo-therapeutical’ interaction in talk shows is a mediatised event organised for the entertainment of an onlooking audience. Unlike genuine therapy sessions, which are confidential, one-to-one conversations between a patient and a therapist, talk shows are not actually concerned with individual therapeutic counselling and consist instead of audience-oriented talk.
In certain respects, this interview with a female presidential candidate is different from other election campaign interviews with male candidates in that it appears to share several features with therapeutically oriented talk shows: the focus is on the interviewee’s private rather than public roles; the purpose is mainly to trigger personal confessions or revelations from the interviewee; the emphasis is on examining and discussing the interviewee’s emotional experiences; the interviewer uses manipulative strategies to rhetorically appeal to the emotions of the audience. A significant difference consists in the fact that Couric is not a listening interlocutor, she is far too eager to offer her interpretation of the interviewee’s mental and emotional states: “There was a sense that perhaps you were feeling so discouraged and frustrated and exhausted …”. Refuting the extreme picture of doom and gloom painted by Couric, Clinton proposes her own interpretation, which is radically opposed to Couric’s. Whereas Couric sees desperation in a female candidate who shows emotion, Clinton sees new opportunities for experiencing and sharing more sympathy and empathy together with others.
In trying to impose her own interpretation of Clinton’s emotions, Couric’s opening statement becomes argumentative. She resorts to a slippery slope argument (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1992) when she makes negative predictions about Clinton’s failure as a presidential candidate based only on insufficient and impressionistic evidence. In this case, the slippery slope argument is fallacious because no valid reason is given in favour of the presumed conclusion. Actually, Clinton explicitly refutes Couric’s fallacious reasoning and provides counter-arguments regarding her newly found connection with voters: “it felt like there was this real connection, … we’ve got to be more sympathetic, we’ve got to be more empathetic.”
4.4 Talking out about you vs. talking out about us
Clinton’s confident and self-assertive message in Extract 3 above does not succeed in stopping Couric from pursuing her line of questioning about the same topic – Clinton’s emotions.
K. Couric: Did you feel that coming from that question, because she was saying to you: ‘How do you do it?’ And suddenly you had to talk about yourself…
H. Clinton: I did, I did, but, you know, a lot of people who asked me that are asking me because they are trying to figure out how to do it themselves. So it’s not about me and it’s not just about you, it’s about us. It’s about who we are together, because it’s easy to get a kind of isolation when you are in the public eye. And the people that you are with you are talking at and the people who are responding, you know, almost the backdrop and I keep trying to bring people out about what they need, and this woman reached out and I just felt this real connection.
Couric exerts her authority as interviewer and keeps asking practically the same question, which reinforces the stereotypical image of Clinton as an emotional female candidate. By using appeals to pathos, she is determined to trigger further personal confessions from Clinton: “And suddenly you had to talk about yourself.” As in Extract 3 above, Couric’s strategy is not so much to ask straightforward questions, but to encourage a dialogue about the interviewee’s emotions. Her manipulative strategy consists in providing her own interpretation and thereby appealing to the emotions of the interviewee, as well as of the audience. However, Clinton refuses to be cornered by Couric’s emotional stereotypes and insists on providing her own version of the event. In so doing, she is determined to turn the apparent weakness of her tearing moment into a display of personal strength: “… but, you know, a lot of people who asked me that are asking me because they are trying to figure out how to do it themselves.” According to her own interpretation, that moment of alleged weakness provided her with a new and special bond with other women who were looking for a role model: “this woman reached out and I just felt this real connection.” What she actually claims is that a special kind of strength emerged from that moment of apparent weakness. There is obviously an underlying disagreement between interviewer and interviewee as to their respective interpretations of Clinton’s emotional behaviour: Couric’s point is that Clinton’s talking out was about herself (‘yourself’), whereas Clinton insists that it was about ‘us’ and connecting with other people.
4.5 Gendering presidential prerequisites
While Couric’s questions discussed above focus on emotions associated with a past event, her subsequent questions focus on emotions projected into the future. The emphasis is still on Clinton’s emotional profile, as illustrated in Extract 5 below:
K. Couric: Will you be willing now to reveal more of yourself and be less reserved?
H. Clinton: Well, you know, one of my young friends said well, that was like Hillary unplugged. I thought, “OK, I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument. But, you know, I will try to let people know enough about me to know that, you know, I don’t need to go back and live in the White House. That’s not why I’m doing this. I certainly don’t need anymore name recognition. And, I mean, I just want to try to convey that we’re going to have to make some big decisions in this country.” This is the toughest job in the world. I was laughing because you know in that debate, obviously Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama were kind of in the buddy system on the stage. And I was thinking whoever’s up against the Republican nominee in the election debates come the fall is not gonna have a buddy to fall back on. You know, you’re all by yourself. When you’re president, you’re there all by yourself.
Couric starts from the assumption that being reserved is not desirable for a presidential candidate and according to her the right thing for Clinton to do is to “to reveal more of yourself and be less reserved”. Interestingly, the message in Couric’s question in Extract 5 – “Will you be willing now to reveal more of yourself and be less reserved?” – sounds like as a follow-up to the declarative question in Extract 2. This question is redundant, since Clinton already answered Couric’s previous question by saying: “I’m trying more to get over sort of my natural reserve” (see Extract 2). Evidently, Couric is not simply asking a question, she is actually calling into question the suitability of Clinton’s personal profile for a future president. Nevertheless, two aspects of this assumption are indirectly contested by Clinton, who provides two counter-arguments in her answer. First, she specifically points out what is important for a president to be able to do, i.e. to make big decisions: “I just want to try to convey that we’re going to have to make some big decisions in this country.” Second, she indicates that one of her own strengths is being able to act on her own: “When you’re president, you’re there all by yourself.” So Clinton does actually answer Couric’s question by revealing more about herself, namely her capacity to make decisions and to act independently. Rhetorically, an important distinction can be noticed between them: while Couric makes use of appeals to pathos (arousing the emotional involvement of the audience and affecting the emotional response of the audience), Clinton provides answers involving appeals to ethos (invoking her own reliability, trustworthiness and commitment to ethical values).
4.6 Loaded questions: male confidence vs. female humility
To round off the examination of interactional moves and rhetorical appeals in this interview, I am going to discuss gender-related argumentative strategies in one last extract from the interview.
K. Couric: When we last spoke you said with certitude, “I will be the Democratic nominee.” Unwavering certitude. Are you sorry you said that with such confidence? Do you think that perhaps turned some people off?
H. Clinton: Well it might have. I was laughing about it afterwards because I can remember when I first met Jimmy Carter in 1975 and I introduced myself to him and he said, “I’m Jimmy Carter and I’m going to be president.” I said, “well, you know, Gov. Carter, well, maybe you shouldn’t say that.” And so I was laughing because I thought well, if you really believe you’d be the best president, you can’t get up everyday and do this job that we’re doing running for president – which is really a full time job – unless you really believe you are the person that can best serve our country at this time.
K. Couric: Can’t you just say I hope so though? Isn’t it a little humility appealing though?
H. Clinton: I’m humble everyday in the face of what I’m facing. I am absolutely aware of how difficult this is and how hard the job that I’m seeking will be but I also know that you’ve got to really believe that you can do it. But ultimately you have to be humble because it’s up to the voters. Voters get to decide.
Harking back to the same topic of emotions, Couric proposes to focus in Extract 6 on a further aspect of Clinton’s emotions. This time she deals with the “unwavering certitude” with which Clinton is perceived to have declared in an earlier interview that she would be the Democratic nominee in the presidential campaign. But what Couric proposes to concentrate on is not Clinton’s certitude and confidence as positive emotions, and the way in which she acquired them, but rather the sense that it was ‘wrong’ to show too much confidence. A male presidential candidate would never be confronted with such a challenging question, since it is usually taken for granted that one of the prerequisites of a politician, and in particular of a president, is precisely a strong feeling of self-confidence. And as a matter of fact, this question never arises in any of the interviews made by Couric with Barack Obama.
The rhetorical force of Couric’s first couple of questions is highly manipulative in that they do not only report Clinton’s statements, but they also call into question the appropriateness of Clinton’s behaviour: “Are you sorry you said that with such confidence? Do you think that perhaps turned some people off?” Such argumentative questions are known as loaded or complex questions. A loaded or complex question is a question that is deliberately used to limit a respondent’s options in answering it (Walton 1981). A loaded question is often fallacious in the sense that it combines several presuppositions, which eventually amounts to combining several questions into one. This is why a loaded question often becomes what is called a fallacy of many questions. The classic example is ”Have you stopped abusing your spouse?” No matter which of the two short answers the respondent gives, s/he concedes engaging in spousal abuse at some time or other. In our case, the loaded question is framed in such a way that no matter which answer Clinton chooses to give – Yes, I am / No, I am not (sorry) –, she inevitably ends up incriminating herself. And this is simply because being or not being sorry presupposes that one has done or said something one ought to be sorry about: the implication is that not only did Clinton boast about becoming the Democratic nominee, but she also did so confidently. The fallacy originates in Couric’s evaluative qualifier “with such confidence”. A similar argumentative mechanism occurs in the immediately following question: no matter what answer Clinton might give – Yes, I do / No, I don’t (think) –, she is trapped into admitting that her attitude might have turned some people off.
Clinton retorts by ironically reporting her dialogue with Jimmy Carter as an example by analogy, which actually serves as a counter-argument to Couric’s argumentative and face-threatening questions. Like herself and all other (male) presidential candidates, Carter openly displayed an attitude of self-confidence about his future political role. However, there are two significant differences between the two of them. First, Carter aimed higher when he said “I’m going to be president”, whereas Clinton’s declaration was slightly more cautious “I will be the Democratic nominee.” Second, since Carter is a man and all American presidents have so far been exclusively men, Carter’s declaration, unlike Hillary Clinton’s, did not cause any debate in the media or among the members of the general public. Clinton rounds off her response by pointing out the fundamental similarity between the two cases, namely that without self-confidence “you can’t get up everyday and do this job that we’re doing running for president – which is really a full time job”.
Couric is obviously not satisfied with Clinton’s answer and proceeds to ask two more questions. This time her questions are even more face-threatening as she also explicitly suggests that Clinton may need to show some “humility”: “Can’t you just say I hope so though? Isn’t it a little humility appealing though?” Couric is clearly reinforcing the stereotypical emotion gendering: confidence is a strong, male-specific emotion, so Clinton should show less confidence; humility is a soft, female-specific emotion, so Clinton should show more humility. These questions are not information-eliciting since they do not elicit information, nor loaded questions like the preceding two, since they do not imply several presuppositions or questions. They are leading questions, i.e. questions which are designed to invite a particular answer that is easily inferable by the addressee (Ilie 2009b). Typical leading questions occur in courtroom questioning by means of which defendants and witnesses are induced to provide particular answers. In this particular case, the implied and expected answers are “Yes, I can” and “Yes, it is”, respectively. But Clinton refuses to acknowledge the validity of the implied answers arguing that “I’m humble everyday in the face of what I’m facing”, and explaining that she knows “how hard the job that I’m seeking will be”. Her two closing sentences contain a powerfully argumentative message about voters as the eventual and decisive evaluators of the presidential candidates: “But ultimately you have to be humble because it’s up to the voters. Voters get to decide.”
5. Concluding remarks
This article is devoted to a close examination of an interview conducted by a female CBS journalist, Katie Couric, with Hillary Clinton, the first female contender for the White House in 2008. The aim was to identify and analyse the ways in which the rhetoric of emotions and the argumentative framing of interview questions and responses contribute to reinforcing or refuting gender roles and stereotypes. The analysis has particularly focused on the different roles, behaviours and positionings enacted by the two women in the public institutional setting of a TV-interview.
The question-response interaction during the interview is heavily impacted by two much debated events: Hillary Clinton’s public display of emotion during a meeting with voters and her unexpected victory in the New Hampshire primary. While election campaign interviews normally are normally devoted to discussing a wide range of key issues, Couric’s interview focuses almost exclusively on Clinton’s emotions, which she interprets in a stereotypical way. Couric is less keen on questioning as she is on calling into question Clinton’s behaviour, feelings and statements. Rather than eliciting information, Couric is mainly interested in eliciting Clinton’s confessions and emotional responses.
A close examination of Couric’s line of questioning reveals her frequent use of fallacious arguments (conveyed by rhetorical questions, loaded questions, slippery slope fallacy), to which Clinton responds by means of refutations and counter-arguments. Particularly biased are her gender-specific emotion attributions: speaking with certitude and showing confidence are not suitable emotions for a female presidential candidate, although the same emotions are normally expected and appreciated in a male ditto. Instead, she recommends that Clinton show ‘a little humility’ as a more appealing, soft emotion. Not unexpectedly, Clinton is not willing to play the emotion game and she vigorously refutes Couric’s repeated attempts to trigger displays of emotion and/or weakness. While Couric’s discourse is informed by repeated appeals to pathos, she tries to elicit emotional responses from her interviewee for the sake of the audience, Clinton’s discourse exhibits appeals to ethos as she tries to consolidate her image as a trustworthy and reliable presidential candidate.
There are two significant aspects that play a decisive role in the ongoing performance and negotiation of their respective gender roles during the interview. Both female interlocutors are tenacious, self-confident and strong-minded. However, whereas women interviewers may be expected to also ask interviewee-friendly and face-saving questions, Couric confronts Clinton with very challenging or face-threatening questions (although this hardly happens in her interviews with Barack Obama, for example). As interviewer, Couric is not simply asking questions, she is practically calling into question the suitability of Clinton’s personality type for the position of president. As interviewee, Clinton can be seen to overtly comply with her role by providing skillfully framed responses. At the same time, she uses her responses to provide counter-arguments and thereby firmly refute being stereotyped and to dismiss being accused of over-emotionality.
Boscagli, M. (1992/1993). A moving story: Masculine tears and the humanity of televised emotions. Discourse 15(2): 64-79.
Case, S. (1994). Gender differences in communication and behaviour in organizations. In M. J. D. & R. J. Burke (eds.). Women in management: Current research issues. London: Paul Chapman.
Eemeren, F. H. & Grootendorst, R. (1992). Argumentation, communication, and fallacies: A pragma-dialectical perspective. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Gal, S. (1991). Between speech and silence: the problematics of research on language and gender. In M. di Leonardo (ed.) Gender at the crossroads of knowledge: Feminist anthropology in the postmodern era. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Harrington, K., Litosseliti, L., Sauntson, H., & Sunderland, J. (eds.). (2008). Gender and language research methodologies. Houndmills, U.K.: Palgrave.
Ilie, C. (1994). What else can I tell you? A pragmatic study of English rhetorical questions as discursive and argumentative acts. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International.
Ilie, C. (1999). Question-response argumentation in talk shows. Journal of Pragmatics, 31(8), 975-999.
Ilie, C. (2001). Semi-institutional Discourse: The Case of Talk Shows. Journal of Pragmatics, 33(2), 209-254.
Ilie, C. (2006). Towards a pragma-rhetorical approach: From rhetoric to pragmatics and beyond. In Ashok Thorat (ed.) Pragmatics (pp. 16-37). Institute of Advanced Studies in English, Aundh, Pune.
Ilie, C. (2009a). Strategies of refutation by definition: A pragma-rhetorical approach to refutations in American public speech. In F.H. van Eemeren & B. Garssen (eds.) Pondering on problems of argumentation. Twenty essays on theoretical issues (pp. 35-51). Berlin: Springer.
Ilie, C. (2009b). Rhetorical Questions. In L. Cummings (ed.) The Routledge Pragmatics Encyclopedia. Oxford: Routledge.
Kotthoff, H., & Wodak, R. (eds.). (1997). Communicating gender in context. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.
Quintilian (1943). Institutio Oratoria, trans. H.E. Butler, London: William Heinemann Ltd.
Tannen, D. (1994). Talking from 9 to 5: Women and men in the workplace: Language, sex and power. New York: Avon.
Walton, D. N. (1981). The fallacy of many questions. Logique et Analyse, 95-96, 291-313.
White, G. M. (1990). Moral discourse and the rhetoric of emotions. In Lutz and Abu-Lughod (eds) Language and the politics of emotion (pp. 46-68). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.