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Blind Spot? Howard Kurtz Rips Coverage of Rubio's 'Watergate' But Ignores CNN's Stunt

CNN media critic Howard Kurtz ripped the press infatuation with Sen. Marco Rubio's water sip as "profoundly depressing," but on Sunday's Reliable Sources he wouldn't call out his own network's attempt to use the incident to drive headlines.

Last Wednesday, CNN's The Situation Room took the trivial and blew it up. CNN showed a still-shot of Rubio sipping water with headline flashing "Career-Ender?" Host Wolf Blitzer asked his panel if the incident was a "big deal." The headline stoked outrage on Twitter and CNN jumped to explain it as a "joke," but Kurtz didn't mention any of this hullabaloo.

The only media outlet Kurtz named was CNN's rival MSNBC: "[W]as the level of attention given to this moment when the senator felt like he had to take a sip. It was played something like 155 times on MSNBC. Was that warranted?"  

"But we're having fun with it. I mean, there's something about it that's profoundly depressing," he followed up later about the media coverage. Yet he didn't ask if it was "warrented" that CNN blared "Career-Ender?" while Wolf Blitzer asked dryly whether a "drink of water" could "make or break a political career."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on Reliable Sources on February 17 at 11:07 a.m. EST, is as follows:

HOWARD KURTZ: Let me go to what happened after the President's State of the Union. The next day in particular, we had a lot of this having to do with the guy who delivered the Republican response, Marco Rubio.

(Video Clip)

Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.): Nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the one the President laid out tonight.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC News: Friend, I've got to ask you about that water bottle last night. Twitter went a little bit wild. You tweeted out the water bottle yourself. You got it there, again.

(End Video Clip)

KURTZ: Paul Farhi, was the level of attention given to this moment when the senator felt like he had to take a sip. It was played something like 155 times on MSNBC. Was that warranted?

PAUL FARHI, The Washington Post: No, but, you know, again, the news is in many ways about what's unusual, and what's unusual here is exactly what you're showing, again, for the 156th time. It lit up Twitter. Everybody remembers it. It will be the only thing remembered about that speech in four years when Marco Rubio is a presidential candidate. Remember when you gave that response to the State of the Union and you took that drink of water? He'll be asked about it forever.

FRANK SESNO, George Washington University: Nothing is too trivial to trivialize.

(Laughter)

SESNO: And I think that's what we saw here.

KURTZ: But we're having fun with it. I mean, there's something about it that's profoundly depressing.

(Crosstalk)

KURTZ: He gave a substantive speech. Obama gave a substantive speech, and it's all about the Poland Spring.

SESNO: If you want a mood, it shouldn't be depressed. It should be outraged. I mean, the fact of the matter is that we are having – I mean, State of the Union, Obama and Rubio actually engaged the big clash of what government should do and what it should be all about and how it's going to play out, and we're talking about water, not how much your government is going to spend on what.

JANE HALL, American University: You know, my theory about this is that politicians are so stage managed, journalists are so glad when something unscripted happens, that we focus on it. And you're absolutely right. His characterizing himself. Rubio talking about his background, this is clearly the rehearsal for what the Republicans are going to say about immigration, personal narrative. There was stuff there.

SESNO: There is so much time to fill.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center