I Won’t Dignify That Question With A Response

Several years ago, I was working on a series of news stories involving pedophilia, child molestation, and murder. During the course of that investigation, I had the opportunity to phone a state senator’s office to ask if my sources were correct, if the senator had indeed reached out to a state judge and asked for a lenient sentence for one of the convicted felons in the case. His aide, first of all, said he’d have to call me back. I guess, since the answer to the question was apparently not immediately obvious, the aide needed to check with his boss to see what kind of answer they’d give me. When I got the call back from the senator’s office, the aide told me the senator would “not dignify the question with a response.” Or, in other words and highly in technical political language, the answer was “yes.” Because, really, what is so undignified about just saying, “No, the senator was never involved in any such sketchy behavior.” Actually, it would have spoken to the senator’s dignity to have answered, “No, absolutely not. Never would I stoop to arrange a light sentence for such a reprehensible person, no matter how much money he’d arranged for my campaign.” But such was not the case in this case and I then knew that the senator had done what I’d said he’d done. I couldn’t prove it beyond what my sources had told me, but I knew.

Many, many years ago, my mother used to tell me there were household chores to be done by asking me, “Do you want to wash the dishes?” or “Do you want to take out the trash?” or “Do you want to mow the lawn?” They weren’t really questions, of course, since there was only one acceptable answer and the first time I replied something like, “Oh, you know what? I really don’t want to wash/take out/mow the dishes/trash/lawn,” I learned a stinging lesson about rhetorical questions. How I wish now that I had known then the panacea, “I won’t dignify that question that with a response.” I would have eventually picked myself off the floor and washed/taken out/mown the dishes/trash/lawn, but I would have gotten enormous satisfaction knowing that I had not said “yes.” I still had to do the chores, but I would have known how to avoid compromising my own lazy principles.

When lawyers and reporters ask that kind of question, they already know the answer (or at least they know the answer they want to hear). Here’s a quick guide to help you as the upcoming elections (or your trial) draw near.

“Did you take the money, sir?

“I won’t dignify that question with an answer.”

[translation: “Yes.”]

“Were you driving the vehicle that night?”

“I won’t dignify that question with an answer.”

[translation: “Yes.”]

“Did you stick your dirty, dirty penis into that woman?”

“I won’t dignify that question with an answer.”

[translation: “Yes.”]

And now you know.