CNN Absurdly Asks If Rubio's Sip of Water Was 'Career-Ender'

<<UPDATE BELOW>> On Wednesday's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer absurdly wondered if Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pausing his State of the Union response for a drink of water would "break" his career. The CNN chyron flashed "Career-ender?"

"So can a drink of water make or break a political career?" Blitzer asked. "A U.S. Senator, possible presidential candidate. We're going to find out, whether he likes it or not."

[UPDATE:] CNN tells Politico, "We are joking. It was a tease."

However, despite CNN claiming the headline was a joke, host Wolf Blitzer kept his serious demeanor for the beginning of the next segment when he noted the "social media frenzy" over Rubio's "awkward pause." The headline was certainly a tease though, as correspondent Kate Bolduan focused her report on Rubio's Florida background.

"His big moment, however, overshadowed by an unscripted drink of water now deemed 'Watergate,'" Bolduan mentioned before noting Rubio's "charm" in his response to the incident.

Bolduan implied that the incident will fade quickly: "But maybe for the next couple of days, people will still be talking about his unscripted water break." And Blitzer acknowledged that "He's got a huge future ahead of him, he's a very impressive guy."

CNN still milked "Watergate" in the next segment, however, as Blitzer asked his guests if it was a "big deal" or a "little deal." He again implied that it wouldn't do any long-term damage, though. "But you agree, he's got a huge future ahead of him. The fact that he went for a sip of water, he wiped a little bit of sweat away from his forehead, that he was a little awkward," Blitzer said downplaying "Watergate."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on The Situation Room on February 13 at 4:32 p.m. EST, is as follows:

[4:28]

WOLF BLITZER: So can a drink of water make or break a political career? A U.S. Senator, possible presidential candidate. We're going to find out, whether he likes it or not.

[HEADLINE: "Career-Ender?"]

(...)

[4:32]

WOLF BLITZER: Marco Rubio made headlines for his Republican response to the President last night, but not necessarily for the reasons he may want. A social media frenzy started when the Senator made an awkward pause – there it is right there – to take a sip of water. Our Kate Bolduan earlier traveled to Miami to get the backstory on this rising GOP star.

(Video Clip)

Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.): Good evening. I'm Marco Rubio.

KATE BOLDUAN: The 41-year-old senator, already labeled the Republican savior, was blunt in his official GOP response to the President's State of the Union address.

RUBIO: His solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more, and spend more.

BOLDUAN: His big moment, however, overshadowed by an unscripted drink of water now deemed "Watergate." Rubio took the moment now gone viral in stride.

RUBIO: I needed water. What am I going to do, you know? It happens. God has a funny way of reminding us that we are human.

BOLDUAN: That charm is one reason behind his rapid rise in the Republican party. To better understand his star power, we went to his roots, West Miami, Florida. His success may seem improbable.

RUBIO: My dad was a bartender. My mom was a cashier.
 
BOLDUAN: But it's no surprise to those closest to Marco Rubio.

Rep. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-Fla.): He was a superstar. He was a standout intern.

BOLDUAN: Rubio got his first taste of politics interning for Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I was a lot thinner and he had a lot more hair. But it's the same old Marco. Marco would do anything and anything that I asked interns to do, and willingly so, whether it was getting coffee or making copies, but mostly going with me to events. He was a real people person.

BOLDUAN: Soon after, at 26 years old, Rubio won his first election for the West Miami city commission, the community he grew up in and still lives with his wife. election and he lives with his wife and four young children.

(On camera) So this is where it all began, if you will?

REBECA SOSA, chair, Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners: It is where it all began for him and for me.

BOLDUAN: And I'm sure people were wondering, was he good?

SOSA: He was excellent. That was his seat.

BOLDUAN: (voice over) Rebecca Sosa is a long-time friend and is considered Rubio's political godmother.

(On camera) What makes Marco Rubio tick?

SOSA: Sometimes people get so arrogant that they don't listen. Marco listens. Marco sits with people. Marco analyzes his surroundings.

BOLDUAN: But it wasn't always easy. After becoming one of the youngest speakers of the Florida State House, he was the long-shot senate candidate in 2010. Jose Mallea ran Rubio's campaign.

JOSE MALLEA, former campaign manager: Early on the entire establishment was against Marco. I think if you were to ask 100 political strategists from all over the country, 99 of them would have probably told you that it couldn't happen.     

BOLDUAN: And that come from behind victory launched Rubio into the national spotlight. He was considered a top vice presidential contender during Mitt Romney's White House run. He introduced Romney at the Republican convention last year.

RUBIO: My dad used to tell us – [Speaking in Spanish] – in this country, you're going to be able to accomplish all the things we never could.

BOLDUAN: Rubio's personal story has been a big part of his political narrative and the source of his biggest controversy to date. A son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio long suggested his parents fled the rule of Fidel Castro, but they actually came to the U.S. more than two years prior.

RUBIO: Do I wish I had known those dates earlier? Absolutely. Does it change anything? Absolutely not.

BOLDUAN: Still, those Latin roots and his conservative credentials are a perfect combination for a party in search of a makeover and desperate to attract more Hispanic voters. So it's fitting Rubio responded to the President in both English and Spanish.

RUBIO: [Speaking in Spanish]

(End Video Clip)

BOLDUAN: Add to all that Rubio taking a leading role in the latest push on immigration reform, it leaves pretty much everyone asking the inevitable question, Wolf, what is next for Senator Rubio? I'll tell you spending some time in West Miami, it was pretty clear his hometown supporters, they aren't setting expectations low. We even came across a man holding a Rubio 2016 sign in town. But maybe for the next couple of days, people will still be talking about his unscripted water break.

BLITZER: He's very popular. We're going to talk a little bit more about that coming up, by the way. But he's very popular. Not only in Miami but throughout Florida, he won that contest. And Florida being a key battleground state in an election. He's got a huge future ahead of him, he's a very impressive guy. I'm sure everyone told you the same thing.

BOLDUN: I heard it over and over again. They really see him as kind of the son of that town. And they all take a lot of pride in seeing the success he's already made so far.

BLITZER: A sip of water. We're going to talk a little bit about that as well. Kate, thanks very much. So will that moment help or hurt the senator? We're going to break it down among other subjects, coming up in our "Strategy Session."

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014