Is it OK to say ‘I’m not here to talk about that’?

After a TV argument with actor Ben Affleck about Muslims, Bill Maher deflected questions about it in an interview. Should he have?

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Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” made some controversial comments about Muslims during one of his recent programs, during which he had a well-publicized debate with one of his guests, actor Ben Affleck. ​

A few days later, Maher was scheduled to give an interview to a reporter from Salon about a different topic—his “Flip a District” campaign—but the writer understandably wanted to ask Maher about his “spat” with Affleck. Maher made clear he didn’t want to talk about that; here are three excerpts from the interview:

Maher’s responses made me think about a question we hear a lot during our media training sessions: What should I do if I’m asked a question about a topic I wasn’t originally booked to speak about? Do I have to answer it, or can I insist on speaking only about the topic we agreed to discuss in advance?

In that situation, you have a few options:

1. Answer the question.

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