Quote: "I didn't say 'assassination'." Pat Robertson, Christian extremist and former presidential candidate, who urged the U.S. government to "take out" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Term: leptologia (lep toe LOH jee ah), argument by quibbling
What would Jesus do? Robertson apparently thinks the Christ would send a squad of assassins over to Venezuela for a little wet work. "You know," Robertson said on the "700 Club," "I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." He added, "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."
Later, Robertson denied using the word "assassination" and said he'd been "misinterpreted." The rhetorical term for this denial is "lying." But he went on to explain that "take him out" could mean "any number of things, including kidnapping." So the denial also qualifies as a leptologia, which uses quibbling to distract the audience.
Snappy Answer: "Why not? We should take out every loud-mouthed extremist."
Got a snappier answer? Email Figaro.
A few hours after Robertson made his denial on his TV show, he issued
an apology on his Web site. From a rhetorical perspective, we
approve heartily of this technique: stir up your loyal viewers
and then cover your, uh, bases with an Internet apology that tens and
tens of them will read.