Can we determine that Tom Brady is lying based upon his response to the following press conference question?
Q. Is Tom Brady a cheater?
Tom Brady: “I don’t believe so.”
On the surface, his response is not what you would expect a non-cheater to say. A poor denial lends credibility to the accuser/allegation. Is this denial simplistic and precise? No. This is a suspicious denial. But can we say he lied?
We have wiggle words in “cheater” and “believe," both left undefined. So, Mr. Brady can interpret and use those words how he wishes, deceptively if he chooses to his advantage. Everybody interprets words differently. We cannot assume “cheater” is a mutually understood word. The dictionary definition includes “dishonesty” and “intentional breaking of rules.” Did he “intentionally” break the rules if the ball boy, on his own, deflated the balls? What if Brady told the ball boy to lower the psi in the balls while mistakenly thinking the ball boy knew the legal limits?
Here’s another question. Is it "intentionally breaking the rules," if the rules are never enforced? QB’s are able to massage, brush, scratch, condition, and otherwise manipulate the balls to their liking. While those actions are apparently within the rules, it seems only a slight extension to think a 1 or 2 less psi is OK too.
The question also connotes present tense: “Are you a cheater?” Brady hasn’t been officially determined to be a “cheater.” So, technically and probably legally, he isn’t a “cheater” until evidence determines him to be. He therefore, “believes” he is not a “cheater.” Our rationalization process allows us to say “I’m not a cheater,” until we’re officially determined to be a cheater. I’m not guilty until determined to be guilty.
Also, he could say he interpreted “cheater” to mean what people thought of him. Given that definition, it doesn’t matter what really happened, it only matters what people thought. If he unknowingly used deflated footballs and people thought he knew it, then he’d be considered a “cheater,” even though he was an unwitting QB. Therefore, with this scenario, he doesn’t believe he’s a “cheater,” but everyone else might.
So, we don’t know if he lied. We may think he did, but we can’t conclude that based on his response. That’s the trouble with a poorly structured question. It leaves us unable to get the truth.
Here is where you can find out more about Mr. Koenig's book, "Getting the Truth," and how to properly construct questions:
Get "Getting the Truth"