Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) had a breakout performance during Wednesday night’s presidential debate, according to a near unanimous consensus of political pundits.
But that doesn’t mean that Rubio is publicly happy with how the night went.
During a Thursday morning interview on “Fox & Friends,” Rubio ripped the debate and the network that hosted it, CNBC, for being shallow and negative.
“I don’t think it’s atypical from what you see among most people in the mainstream media, which is privately they believe they’re smarter than the people running, and they can’t wait for their chance to show off in front of their buddies by asking some question they think is going to embarrass, especially, Republicans,” Rubio said.
Rubio and many of his fellow White House contenders were peppered with what the Republican National Committee chairman subsequently blasted as “gotcha” questions. For Rubio, the moderators pressed him on his weak Senate-attendance record and his relatively tumultuous personal finances.
Rubio nevertheless deftly handled the questions and turned the tables by ripping the mainstream media. And at one point, Rubio shellacked his former ally, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who called for him to resign his Senate job or show up to work more.
“We’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio told Bush.
Reflecting the next day on Fox News, Rubio lamented that more of the questions were not focused on economic policy, which he said he expected from a financial-news television network.
“I think the bigger frustration that you saw is all of those candidates on the stage had prepared for a substantive debate,” Rubio said. “Everyone was ready to talk about trade policy and the debt and tax policies. We were ready for that. Everybody was. And then you get questions like the ones everybody got, which were clearly designed to either get us to fight against each other, or to say something embarrassing about us and ask us to react.”
He added: “And that’s what these questions were, and it became irritating. You go onto a network that specialises in economic news, and you get questions like some of the ones that were asked last night. And the real frustration begins to bubble over.”
For its part, CNBC defended the questions amid the Republican criticism following the debate.
“People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions,” CNBC spokesman Brian Steel told Business Insider.