CNN Presses Pence on Past Trump Remarks, Tosses Softballs to Kaine

As Democratic and Republican vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence appeared in separate interviews on Thursday's New Day, there was a blatant difference in how each guest was received, as Kaine was mostly served up softballs by Alisyn Camerota, while Chris Cuomo spent nearly all his time hitting Pence over controversial statements Trump has made in the past, repeatedly pressing the GOPer to disagree with his running mate's past comments.

When Camerota spoke with Kaine shortly before 7:30 a.m. ET, out of the six questions she asked that were not related to Hurricane Matthew, only one question was posed from a contrarian point of view, as she recalled Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway's charge that Kaine had treated debate moderator Elaine Quijano in a sexist manner.

Her other questions were mostly non-challenging, as she wondered if her Democratic guest had any regrets about his performance, and even invited him to attack Pence on gay rights. Camerota:

One of our pundits said that it looked as though you -- as if you had prepared for a debate against Donald Trump, not against the more subdued Mike Pence, and they also said that it was possible that you had missed some opportunities to go after Governor Pence on some of his weaknesses, such as LGBT rights.

Just yesterday, co-host Cuomo had repeatedly fretted over the absence of debate questions challenging Pence from a liberal point of view on gay rights, but, when given the chance to bring up the issue himself, he ironically spent nearly all of the nine-minute interview pressing the GOP candidate to voice disagreement with Trump's comments on other issues from the past. After beginning by asking a question about Hurricane Matthew at about 8:30 a.m. ET, Cuomo brought up Trump's history of making negative comments toward both Mexicans and Muslims. Cuomo:

I've been reading the transcripts of your interviews, and I understand why you're getting frustrated with these questions about defending Donald Trump. But what I don't understand, Governor, is why don't you say, "I don't agree with what Donald Trump has said about Muslims and about the Mexican judge"? Because before you were his nominee, Governor, you said that. You said Trump is wrong about categorically saying Muslims can't get in the country. Why not just own your own truth on those situations?

The CNN host suggested that Pence should "condemn" Trump as he jumped in to follow up:

But, Governor, that is a finessed position. We both know that where he started is saying there is a problem with Islam, that Muslims should be kept out of the country. You condemned those comments, and you did so strongly as the governor of Indiana when you were backing Ted Cruz. You said we can't say that. When he said what he said about Judge Curiel, not making it about the case but about his ethnicity, you condemned those comments. Why do you not condemn them now?

He soon pressed again:

But what he has said about women, about Mexicans, about Muslims matters. And I know that you have said that you don't share those positions, and now, tacitly, you are accepting those positions because you won't speak out against them. Do you understand that?

When the GOP candidate brought up Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" slam against Trump supporters, Cuomo jumped in to defend her:

And the next day she said she went too far. And the next day she said she went too far, and you know that very unsavory, negative and hateful components have attached themselves to the campaign.

For his final question, Cuomo lectured:

They're not little lines, though, Governor. That's the issue. You're going to be setting the tone as Vice President and President of the United States about how we respect each other, about who matters, and whether all of us matter the same way. And when somebody says things that exclude people and make them less than, it is the job of leadership to stand up against that. And I know you've done it in the past. That's why I'm asking you why you're not doing it now.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Thursday, October 6, New Day on CNN:

7:29 a.m. ET
ALISYN CAMEROTA: So we are three days away now from the highly anticipated rematch between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This morning, the Clinton campaign is debuting a new battleground ad right here on New Day, so let's take a look at it.[clip of ad] All right, we're joined now by Hillary Clinton's running mate, Senator Tim Kaine. Good morning, Senator. ... So tell me the thinking behind that ad. [KAINE]

Yeah, I mean, Senator, this is an ideal version obviously of who we are as Americans, but, of course, we're also a materialistic society that is enamored of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and billionaires like Donald Trump, or he wouldn't be doing so well. So do you ignore that aspect at your peril? [KAINE]

Senator, let's talk about the VP debate. Anything that now, two days later, you wish you had done differently? [KAINE]

What did Secretary Clinton say to you about your performance? [KAINE]

One of our pundits said that it looked as though you -- as if you had prepared for a debate against Donald Trump, not against the more subdued Mike Pence, and they also said that it was possible that you had missed some opportunities to go after Governor Pence on some of his weaknesses, such as LGBT rights.

TIM KAINE, DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Right. Well, it is the case that there was no question that was asked that dealt with Governor Pence or just the issue of LGBT equality. Hillary and I are strongly for LGBT equality, including marriage equality, and a Trump-Pence ticket is deeply against it, especially Governor Pence. So, yeah, that was an opportunity, I would have loved to have had a 93-minute debate instead of a 90-minute debate. But I think that that pundit who said that was probably accurate. I viewed this as fundamentally a debate that was about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, not about Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. And so I went in with the thought that, "Look, Hillary Clinton is the top of the ticket, and Donald Trump is the top of the ticket, and that's where I'm going to focus." And so that was my goal, and I think we succeeded in doing it.

CAMEROTA: Some of the reviews were not that kind. The Trump campaign, a couple of their surrogates said that you seemed unhinged, and then the campaign manager for Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, had a different take on you. So let me play that for you.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: So why in the world was her running mate interrupting and ignoring the female moderator -- Asian-American female moderator, by the way, completely was almost like he didn't hear her. And it came off terribly on TV.

CAMEROTA: Governor, I don't know if you could hear that, but basically she was suggesting there was some sexism there. Do you want to respond? [KAINE]

Senator, let's talk about the hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, that's bearing down on Florida. Do you or Hillary Clinton plan to visit Florida in the next several days? [KAINE]

(...)

8:31 a.m. ET
CHRIS CUOMO: Governor Mike Pence found himself in a very interesting position during the vice presidential debate. How does he make strong points about himself while also having to defend what Donald Trump has said. On our poll, people said that he won that debate. So let's discuss with him now, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Governor, thank you for joining us. I want to deal with the immediacy of what's happening in Florida right off the bat. I know you want to send a message to people out who are down there and preparing. What is that message, sir? [MIKE PENCE]

No, it's a good message to keep out there. I'm leaving right after this interview to get down there and do our coverage so we can keep people informed of the situation. So let me cut to the chase here in terms of our political discussion. I've been reading the transcripts of your interviews, and I understand why you're getting frustrated with these questions about defending Donald Trump.

But what I don't understand, Governor, is why don't you say, "I don't agree with what Donald Trump has said about Muslims and about the Mexican judge"? Because before you were his nominee, Governor, you said that. You said Trump is wrong about categorically saying Muslims can't get in the country. Why not just own your own truth on those situations? [PENCE]

CUOMO: Governor, but that's not what he said. What he said was-

PENCE: -has talked about putting the security of the American people first-

CUOMO: Right, but he has also said, Governor, that Muslims-

PENCE: -we're going to suspend immigration from countries compromised by terrorism.

CUOMO: But, Governor, that is a finessed position. We both know that where he started is saying there is a problem with Islam, that Muslims should be kept out of the country. You condemned those comments, and you did so strongly as the governor of Indiana when you were backing Ted Cruz. You said we can't say that. When he said what he said about Judge Curiel, not making it about the case but about his ethnicity, you condemned those comments. Why do you not condemn them now? [PENCE]

Except that, Governor, there is the policy, but there is also the person. And, again, you don't like handling directly these questions of what he said. You can't argue that he's changed his position. That's fine. He's different now from where he started on immigration, and that's for the voters to decide how they feel about that change. But what he has said about women, about Mexicans, about Muslims matters. And I know that you have said that you don't share those positions, and now, tacitly, you are accepting those positions because you won't speak out against them. Do you understand that? [PENCE]

PENCE: ...Hillary Clinton is standing in front of wealthy donors in New York where just a couple of weeks ago said that half of Donald Trump and my supporters were a "basket of deplorables," "irredeemable," "not America," and then she called them every "ism" in the book.

CUOMO: And the next day she said she went too far. And the next day she said she went too far, and you know that very unsavory, negative and hateful components have attached themselves to the campaign. [PENCE]

They're not little lines, though, Governor. That's the issue. You're going to be setting the tone as Vice President and President of the United States about how we respect each other, about who matters, and whether all of us matter the same way. And when somebody says things that exclude people and make them less than, it is the job of leadership to stand up against that. And I know you've done it in the past. That's why I'm asking you why you're not doing it now. [PENCE]

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