Appearance Alert!
MRC's Brent Bozell on FNC's The Kelly File, Thursday 9:10pm ET/PT

CBS's Rodriguez Asks Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist About RINO Label

In an interview with Florida Governor Charlie Crist on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez turned to the hotly contested Senate race: "your opponent in the primary, fellow Republican Marco Rubio, and you...are in a dead heat in this race. Critics say that it's because he is a true conservative and you are...a RINO, a 'Republican In Name Only.' How do you respond to that criticism?"

As Rodriguez spoke, the latest Quinnipiac University poll of the primary appeared on screen, showing Rubio with 47% among Republican voters and Crist with 44%. Crist defended his conservative credentials: "Well, if I'm a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan." At the same, time he seemed to attack conservative Rubio for being an "ideologue": "...we do things a little differently here in Florida, we actually work together to get things done for the people. And I think that's exactly what the American people want. They don't want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer."

While Rodriguez mentioned conservative criticism of Crist, she did not bring up the Governor's well known hug with President Obama last year and staunch support for the stimulus package. In contrast, back in 2006, CBS correspondent Trish Regan labeled Democratic Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman's embrace with President Bush as an "infamous kiss." On the August 8 Early Show she touted how Lieberman's left-wing primary challenger "Ned Lamont has used this now infamous kiss to his advantage on campaign buttons and television ads, suggesting Lieberman is just too cozy with the President." Apparently CBS isn't interested in Crist being "cozy" with Obama.

Rodriguez followed up: "So why do you think this race is so tight and why is he so close?" Crist dodged the question: "200 days from the race...Let's see what it is when we get to game day."

Thursday's Early Show was on location in Miami, Florida, ahead of the CBS broadcast of the Superbowl there on Sunday. It is interesting to note that while Rodriguez, a Cuban-American Miami native, interviewed Crist, no time was given to fellow Miami Cuban-American Rubio. Rodriguez promoted her Cuban-American heritage throughout the show, including a profile of Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan, who did a live performance.

Here is a transcript Rodriguez's exchange with Crist:

7:05AM

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: If we can be serious and talk politics for a minute, you're running for the U.S. Senate in one of the hottest, if not the hottest, races in the country.

CHARLIE CRIST: Oh, it's the hottest.

RODRIGUEZ: It is the hottest. As you know, it's getting a ton of press because your opponent in the primary, fellow Republican Marco Rubio, and you, at least according to one significant poll, are in a dead heat in this race. Critics say that it's because he is a true conservative and you are - you've heard this - a RINO, a 'Republican In Name Only.' How do you respond to that criticism?

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC: Quinnipiac University Poll; Rubio 47%, Crist 44%]

CRIST: Well, if I'm a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan. I mean, I'm a less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom kind of guy and I just take a pragmatic common sense approach to government. And if that's not what the people want, they'll let me know. But I'm confident that it is, I really am. And you know, we do things a little differently here in Florida, we actually work together to get things done for the people. And I think that's exactly what the American people want. They don't want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer. They want people who care about them first and foremost and do what it takes to get better education, better schools, you know, better quality of life, protect the environment, reduce the amount of taxes and just use common sense.

RODRIGUEZ: So why do you think this race is so tight and why is he so close?

CRIST: Well, I think that, you know, we're what? 200 days from the race.

RODRIGUEZ: It's in August, yeah.

CRIST: Let's see what it is when we get to game day.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.