At a town hall meeting, Sen. Tom Coburn criticized Fox News, saying it peddled false information about the health care bill, and he chastised constituents who had nasty things to say about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
It’s not exactly the kind of thing you expect from Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who has become a hero of sorts to fiscal conservatives and the tea party movement, not only for his opposition to the health care bill but also his track record as one of the Senate’s toughest fiscal conservatives. He’s even nicknamed “Dr. No” for his record of blocking bills he opposes, usually on fiscal grounds.
But Coburn has distinguished himself in another way: he’s really tired of how nasty politics has become in the nation.
In remarks at the town hall, Coburn referred to Pelosi, a California Democrat, as a “nice lady,” which prompted audible disagreement from Oklahomans. “Come on now. She is nice – how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person,” Coburn said, according to Capitol News Connection.
He continued: “Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re not a good person. I’ve been in the Senate for five years and I’ve taken a lot of that, because I’ve been on the small side both in the Republican Party and the Democrat Party.”
Coburn also batted down constituents who raised ill-informed concerns about the health care bill. When one woman said she feared being thrown in jail if she didn’t get health insurance, Coburn advised turning off the TV.
“The intention is not to put any one in jail. That makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn’t the intention,” Coburn responded.
He warned of basing opinions about policy or politicians on the cable news network. “What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what’s going on and make a determination yourself,” he said. “So don’t catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”
Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.
Coburn has friendly ties with another Democrat who doesn’t sit well with conservative activists: President Barack Obama. The two had a friendly relationship when Obama was in the Senate, and while Coburn has opposed much of the administration’s agenda, he doesn’t make it personal with the president.