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McConnell on handling the press: 'I'm a man of few words but on purpose'

"Even if I'm in a press conference situation, if it's a question I don't want to answer, I simply don't answer it," McConnell said.

Updated: May 1, 2021 - 10:05pm

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday he is a "man of few words" on purpose, explaining that he normally avoids answering questions from the press on Capitol Hill.

"Actually, contrary to what people may think I'm perfectly willing to talk," McConnell said during a virtual discussion for the McCain Institute's Sedona Forum 2021. "The question is, is it to my advantage to talk? And I think that depends on the issue.

"One maxim I've tried to employ is you can never get in trouble for things you do not say. So if you're in my line of work, particularly now that I'm leader, I'm getting peppered with all kinds of questions on all kinds of things all the time ... so typically, I just smile sweetly and walk on by." 

McConnell was majority leader in the Senate from 2015 until 2021, when the Democrats won a slim, functional 50-50 majority with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.

The Kentucky Republican said he typically provides the same answer to journalists who try to rephrase their question multiple times during news conferences.

"Even if I'm in a press conference situation, if it's a question I don't want to answer, I simply don't answer it," McConnell said. "And one of the things that reporters like to do is they'll ask you the same question a slightly different way because they've been taught in journalism school that, sooner or later, the politician will answer because they will become embarrassed if they're stiffing you and not answering the question.

"In my experience, if you give them the very same answer two or three times, that ends it, no matter how they recast the question. So I think the fundamental point I'm making here is just standing around out in the hall and rambling about first things — you know, a whole lot of things that are being brought to your attention — is probably not a good strategy for anybody and particularly is it not smart for somebody who's in a position like I am in the Senate, so yeah, I'm a man of few words but on purpose. It's not because I'm afraid to talk. I choose not to." 

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