Rubio Communications Director Spars with CNN Following Report on Rubio Quitting Soon

Less than an hour after CNN published an article by special correspondent Jamie Gangel alleging that top Marco Rubio advisers are pushing for him to drop out before the March 15 Florida primary, Rubio communications director Alex Conant took to CNN’s The Situation Room to excoriate the outlet for its “utter nonsense” and “fiction” that didn’t even seek public comment from the campaign. 

Host Wolf Blitzer set the scene but Conant was quickly on the attack by first declaring that “Jamie's report was utter nonsense” seeing as how “[s]he did not contact the campaign prior to coming on the show last hour and reporting that.”

“It's absolutely 100 percent false. I think CNN is doing a disservice to voters by airing that sort of reporting without even checking with the campaign,” Conant explained. 

Conant ruled that “[h]er sources...have no idea what the internal deliberations of the campaign are because if she did, she would know that Marco feels confident about Florida” and when Blitzer interjected to rehash the key points of Gangel’s story, Conant called the liberal network out for their “fiction”:

Wolf, I have a lot of respect for you, but I'm going to ask you to stop reading that sort of fiction on air because it's not true at all. If Jamie had checked with the campaign, if Jamie had good sources in the campaign, she would know that's that not true. That's fiction and CNN should stop reporting it. 

Blitzer again tried to caution Conant that while he’s not the source the story, “maybe some private advisers who aren't necessarily coordinating with the campaign, just speaking as sometimes they do candidly to a journalist.”

Needless to say, Conant rejected that possibility: “That's just not the case. That's just not the case, Wolf. I was sitting in a senior staff meeting planning out next week's schedule when I saw this report suddenly on the air and I came racing across town.”

Tell the Truth 2016

Before shifting gears to the current campaign ahead of the primary contests on Tuesday and beyond, Conant elaborated on why he sprinted over to CNN’s D.C. bureau upon hearing of the story: 

Because CNN hadn't asked us for comment before that. I mean, CNN went to air with a report without asking a campaign for feedback. Who does that? How did that happen? How did that get to air without somebody asking the campaign for comment? 

The relevant portion of the transcript from CNN’s The Situation Room on March 7 can be found below.

CNN’s The Situation Room
March 7, 2016
6:08 p.m. Eastern

WOLF BLITZER: Alex Conant is the communications director for Senator Rubio who is with us as well. Alex, thanks very much for joining us. Let's talk a little bit about what Jamie Gangel has been reporting, what you're hearing, that Rubio himself very, very bullish, wants to stay in this race, but some advisers maybe wondering can't win in Florida, maybe it's best to get out before March 15th. 

ALEX CONANT: Wolf, Jamie's report was utter nonsense. She did not contact the campaign prior to coming on the show last hour and reporting that. It's absolutely 100 percent false. I think CNN is doing a disservice to voters by airing that sort of reporting without even checking with the campaign. Her sources, whatever they are, have no idea what the internal deliberations of the campaign are because if she did, she would know that Marco feels confident about Florida. Just a new poll today, a public poll today showed Marco gaining from double digits down two weeks ago, single digits now. We're ahead in the early voting. We’re going to be there the next week. We know how to win in Florida. We're going to win in Florida. It's going to be a new day on the campaign the day after we win Florida. 

BLITZER: Because some of her sources close to the campaign, inside the campaign, not the Senator himself, clearly not you, saying — one of them saying he doesn't want to get killed in his home state and maybe it would be smart, especially if he doesn't do well tomorrow, let's say, in Michigan and Mississippi, maybe to avoid some sort of humiliation, keep his credentials, it may be smart to get out before March 15th. 

CONANT: Wolf, I have a lot of respect for you, but I'm going to ask you to stop reading that sort of fiction on air because it's not true at all. If Jamie had checked with the campaign, if Jamie had good sources in the campaign, she would know that's that not true. That's fiction and CNN should stop reporting it. 

BLITZER: Let’s talk a little bit about that. You don't know, there maybe some private advisers who aren't necessarily coordinating with the campaign, just speaking as sometimes they do candidly to a journalist, right? 

CONANT: That's just not the case. That's just not the case, Wolf. I was sitting in a senior staff meeting planning out next week's schedule when I saw this report suddenly on the air and I came racing across town. 

BLITZER: And I know you came over here deliberately because you wanted to get your — 

CONANT: Because CNN hadn't asked us for comment before that. I mean, CNN went to air with a report without asking a campaign for feedback. Who does that? How did that happen? How did that get to air without somebody asking the campaign for comment? 

BLITZER: I don't know. I assume Jamie Gangel and her producers and others did speak to — 

CONANT: She did not. 

BLITZER: Maybe they didn't speak to you, but they spoke to others. 

CONANT: I did not talk to anybody that she spoke to and I was sitting in the room with the people that are making those decisions. 

BLITZER: So let's get it straight. The Senator, he's staying in the race irrespective of what happens tomorrow. 

CONANT: Of course. 

BLITZER: He will at least stay in the race until March 15 when Florida votes. 

CONANT: Of course. We feel bullish about our chances in Florida. Look, we won Puerto Rico yesterday. There's a new poll out of Florida today showing that we have a lot of momentum in Florida . We feel good about the contests tomorrow. We’re going to win more delegates on Tuesday. We'll win more delegates in D.C. on Saturday when D.C. has their convention and then we're going to win the Florida primary. Come next Wednesday, when you have me back on set next Wednesday, you're see Marco having huge gains in the delegates and on the path to being the Republican nominee.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center