On Tuesday night at The 201 Bar in Washington, D.C., Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio entertained an invite-only audience of Capitol Hill staffers and reporters as BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith interviewed him for their “BuzzFeed Brews” series.
Smith’s interview was live streamed via BuzzFeed’s website with questions asked by Twitter users as well as those developed by members of the BuzzFeed staff. During the wide-ranging interview, Rubio shared his opinions on not only the news of the day, but also a little bit of pop culture, including his thoughts on Biggie and Tupac and football-helmet safety.
“The idea that Congress, who can’t even pass a budget, is going to solve concussions in the NFL is doubtful at best,” Rubio said, noting that his seven-year-old son plays the sport.
And although BuzzFeed’s headline claimed Rubio was “not concerned about climate change in Florida,” the Florida senator never actually said anything to that effect, instead citing “reasonable debate” on the topic.
But critics were quick to point out the site was playing up its bias following the interview. Breitbart’s Big Journalism scribe Ezra Dulis likened Rubio’s embrace of BuzzFeed to the Scorpion and the Frog fable and suggested it should be a lesson Rubio heeds going forward.
“This isn’t to whine that BuzzFeed’s biased or not fair; of course they were going to do this,” Dulis wrote. “Like the scorpion, it’s their nature. This is about Republicans’ total lack of media savvy. You’d think that after his brush with GQ a few months back, Rubio would at least be as smart as the frog and set up this scenario so the partisans at BuzzFeed had some incentive not to sting him. He didn’t.”
Alex Conant, spokesman for the Florida senator, didn’t comment directly on BuzzFeed’s choice of stories. However, he said Rubio was appreciative of BuzzFeed’s invite, which was a part of the senator’s strategy to embrace a broader range of media to advance conservatism.
“Sen. Rubio appreciated the invitation to be the first guest at BuzzFeed Brews,” Conant wrote in an email to The Daily Caller. “It was a fun event and good way to engage an important, young audience. He was the first politician to visit BuzzFeed’s headquarters in New York, and we’re glad to have a good relationship with their quickly growing team. We think that if conservatives are going to win in the future, we need to be willing to engage a broad range of media. That’s why Sen. Rubio goes on a lot of conservative talk radio and FOX News, but we’ve also done the Daily Show with Jon Stewart a couple of times and last night’s interview with BuzzFeed.”