A “gotcha question” is an unreasonably specific question that has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand. Like if a candidate for public office is being interviewed on a major television network and the interviewer asks her which publications she reads to keep up with current events. And let’s say the candidate never reads anything longer than the warning label on a semi-automatic assault rifle, so she can’t answer.
No, no. Wait. I got that wrong. Can we start over?
A “gotcha question” is a question a public figure doesn’t know the answer to. Either that, or she doesn’t want to answer because to do so would reveal, starkly, her ignorance of the topic.
The reason some public figures fear the gotcha question is that they are afraid to say the words, “I don’t know.” They think not knowing the answer to a question is a sign of weakness.* Unfortunately, they are not the only people who think so.
*Not knowing the answer to a question is not a sign of weakness, but sometimes it IS a sign of incompetence. You wouldn’t want to stump your brain surgeon in neurology trivia.