Quote of the Day

QUOTE OF THE DAY…. Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma is conservative. I mean, really conservative. By some measures, he’s the single most far-right senator in a caucus filled with far-right senators.

And yet, he seems to get along pretty well — at least on a personal level — with his Democratic colleagues. Indeed, Coburn and a senator by the name of Barack Obama became good friends. How does this happen? Perhaps because of instances like this one.

An Oklahoma town hall meeting with colorful characters and a lot of populist anger brought out an often glossed over side of the ultra conservative Sen. Tom Coburn: his sensibility.

After a woman in the audience railed against the possibility of being put in prison for not obtaining health insurance under the Democrat’s new law, Coburn dismissed her remark and questioned the accuracy of Fox News reports on health care reform. The meeting was recorded by radio station KGOU in Norman.

“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.

Based on local press reports, it seems much of Coburn’s town-hall event continued in that vein. When he mentioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Coburn described her as “a nice lady.” When the room booed and hissed, Coburn told them, “Come on now. She is nice – how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person.”

Coburn also encouraged his audience, “[D]on’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.”

Keep in mind, conservative lawmakers calling out Fox News in public like this is exceedingly rare, if not completely unheard of. For the Senate’s most conservative senator to defend Pelosi’s character while criticizing Fox News is so unusual, I had to double-check to make sure the article wasn’t published on April 1. (It wasn’t.)

I suppose the next question, then, is what Fox News is going to do about it. In general, even mild criticism from notable figures is enough for the network to attack the critic, publicly and aggressively. Michael Scherer wondered, “So what is Fox News going to do with Tom Coburn…. Has Coburn been co-opted by the Socialists? Too much French food?”

The Republican network will probably remain silent — conservative Republicans are nearly always exempt from Fox News pushback — but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.