CNN's Cuomo Badgers Coburn Over Rubio's 'Base' Attacks on Trump

CNN's Chris Cuomo hounded former Senator Tom Coburn on Tuesday's New Day over former colleague Marco Rubio's recent attacks on Donald Trump. Cuomo underlined that "when you talk about the tone, no question Trump is decidedly negative in his tone. But so has Rubio been.... he called Trump a scam artist; a con artist; that he has small hands; that he's doing spray tan on his face." He asked Coburn, "This is your unity candidate? This is the guy who speaks to your better lights?...You really believe...you have to be as base as he is?" [video below]

The anchor turned to the Oklahoma senator for his take on the Super Tuesday primaries, as he endorsed Senator Rubio on Monday. After initially prompting Coburn to make a prediction on what states Rubio might win, Cuomo brought up the Florida politician's attacks on Trump, and asked his "unity candidate" question.

Coburn replied, in part, that "what you have to do is stand up to bullies. And there's no question Donald Trump's tactics are to demean anybody around him. And the only way you can get back at that is you got to fight back." He added, however, that "I'm not for that. I would just tell you that. But I'm not disgusted about that, because I've heard enough."

Cuomo acknowledged that his guest "liked to keep it above board when you were in office," but continued to press him on the subject by playing a clip of Senator Rubio jabbing at his billionaire opponent over the size of his hands. The CNN journalist lamented, "Look, this might work, like, in a bar with the fellas. But...I certainly would have never heard a Senator Coburn talk about an opponent this way. What do you think the virtue is in that? You really believe that to compete against Donald Trump, you have to be as base as he is?"

Tell the Truth 2016

The former senator repeated that he wouldn't personally go that route with Trump, but continued that "you have to give some of that back to bullies. And that's what he's done. If you listen to Marco — a complete speech — what you will hear is a vision for America that lifts everybody; that doesn't leave anybody out; that restores what our founders believed — restores the success that we saw in the 20th century."

Earlier in the interview, Senator Coburn contended that "if Donald Trump is the nominee of our party, that you will see a third party develop that will....counter the effect of Donald Trump." He criticized Trump over the lack of specifics in his campaign: "There's a lot of obfuscation as to what he believes and what his answers are. Where's his program? What does he mean? What we hear is a lot of superlatives, but we don't hear meat. We don't hear facts. We don't hear positions."

The full transcript of Chris Cuomo's interview of former Senator Tom Coburn from the March 1, 2016 edition of CNN's New Day:

CHRIS CUOMO:  Let's talk right now about what is going on with the GOP side — specifically, with Senator Marco Rubio. This is a big day for him if he wants to get competitive.

With us, the man on your screen: Tom Coburn, former Republican senator who represented Oklahoma. He has endorsed Senator Marco Rubio. Senator, always a pleasure to speak with you. Let's talk about Marco—

TOM COBURN, (R), FMR. U.S. SENATOR, OKLAHOMA: Good morning—

[CNN Graphic: "Trump Poised For Super Tuesday Sweep?; Voters Head To The Polls For Super Tuesday; Where Can Rubio Win On Super Tuesday?"]

CUOMO: Let's talk about Marco Rubio. Let's put up the map of the states at play today. Where do you see Rubio winning; and if he doesn't win anywhere today, do you still believe that he can be the nominee?

[CNN Graphic: "GOP Super Tuesday Delegates: Delegates At Stake (Total: 595); Alaska, 28; Wyoming, 29; Texas, 155; Oklahoma, 43; Minnesota, 38; Arkansas, 40; Tennessee, 58; Alabama, 50; Georgia, 76; Virginia, 49; Vermont, 16; Massachusetts, 42"]

COBURN: First of all, I don't know where he'll win and where he won't. I think a lot of places are going to be much closer than what the polls have predicted. And I think he stays in — sure — because he is the voice of the — of really, the conservative movement that has a heart. And Americans see that. He causes people to aspire to a greater height, rather than — takes advantage of their fears. And so, I think he has a great opportunity — not just today, but in the days coming forward — to still have a voice out there.

Chris, I think the other thing that's going to happen, is if Donald Trump is the — the nominee of our party, that you will see a third — third party develop that will counter that—

[CNN Graphic: "Rubio Looks For First Primary Win On Super Tuesday"]

CUOMO: What would that third party be?

COBURN: Well, it will be somebody independently running to counter the effect of Donald Trump. Donald Trump hasn't answered one specific question yet. And nobody knows what he believes. Nobody knows what he stands for. And — and you know, I think Marco is pretty right. There's a lot of obfuscation as to what he believes and what his answers are. Where's his program? What does he mean? What we hear is a lot of superlatives, but we don't hear meat. We don't hear facts. We don't hear positions. What we hear is — is oh, he denigrates other people. And when you do that, what you are is a bully; and he acts like a bully; and most bullies are cowards—

CUOMO: But Senator—

[CNN Graphic: "Rubio Turning To More Personal Attacks Against Trump"]

COBURN: And so, what I see is a very, very — I understand there's a lot of people — but the reason that they're voting for him is they're so disgusted with the government that we have—

CUOMO: That is true—

COBURN: You can't blame them. You can't blame them for—

CUOMO: There is — he is seen as an antidote. He wins against every category—

COBURN: But he's not the antidote that he claims to be.

CUOMO: But he wins against — every category of voter. Conservatives have been voting for him more than Rubio and Cruz — sometimes combined. And when you talk about the tone, no question Trump is decidedly negative in his tone. But so has Rubio been. Recently—

COBURN: No, he hadn't been. Rubio—

CUOMO: But Senator, in the last couple of days, he called Trump a scam artist; a con artist; that he has small hands; that he's doing spray tan on his face. This is your unity candidate? This is the guy who speaks to your better lights?

COBURN: Well, I think what he — what Marco has decided to do is — you know, what you have to do is stand up to bullies. And there's no question Donald Trump's tactics are to — are to demean anybody around him. And the only way you can get back at that is you got to fight back. You have got to use his same tools.

I'm not for that. I would just tell you that. But I'm not disgusted about that, because I've heard enough. What I'd like to see is somebody talking about how we solve the problems of our country; and Marco Rubio is talking about that.

I was with him last night, and heard a wonderful speech about why we can all aspire to have a great America and take advantage of what this country provides, rather than talking about all of the negatives and what's wrong with all of the candidates that oppose him.

CUOMO: I understand your point; and certainly, you liked to keep it above board when you were in office. But let's play what he was saying Sunday night — and something he's been repeating a lot. This is in Virginia.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from campaign rally): He doesn't sweat because his pores are clogged from the spray tan that he uses. (audience laughs) He's — Donald is not going to make America great. He's going to make America orange. He's always calling me 'little Marco.' And I'll admit he's taller than me. He's like six-two — which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who's five-two. Have you ever seen his hands? They're like this. And you know what they say about men with small hands? You can't trust them.

CUOMO: Look, this might work, like, in a bar with the fellas. But it is hard to say — I certainly would have never heard a Senator Coburn talk about an opponent this way. What do you think the virtue is in that? You really believe that to compete against Donald Trump, you have to be as base as he is?

COBURN: Well, no, I don't; and I don't think Marco believes that either. I think Marco has to — you know, you have to raise the level of which you're being attacked, and you have to give some of that back to bullies. And that's what he's done. If you listen to Marco — a complete speech — what you will hear is a vision for America that lifts everybody; that doesn't leave anybody out; that restores what our founders believed — restores the success that we saw in the 20th century.

So yeah, I understand the media pays attention to that. But the fact is, is there's going to be a call to make us what we need to be and to have everybody participate in that; and the person to do that, I believe, is Marco Rubio. And, I don't believe that Donald Trump is the person to do that. You know, I — at times, I tell you what: I'm embarrassed for our country about some of the things that he says. And, as you speak — you know, it actually identifies your heart.

And what's great about Marco is nobody — nobody else on the other side can beat him, and they know that. And they know that we're — we may not be smart enough to elect a person that can beat anybody they put up.

CUOMO: Well, Senator Rubio has got his work cut out for him to get into the general election—

COBURN: He does—

CUOMO: But, we will let us see what happens today. Senator Coburn, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you for being on New Day.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center