The Republican senator who has been blocking an extension of unemployment benefits surprised supporters and critics alike with a defense of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and criticism of Fox News at a recent town hall event.


Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told a crowd in Norman, Oklahoma, that Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in the House, is a "nice lady" and the public should keep itself from "being biased by Fox News."

Coburn also took the unusual step of correcting a mistaken belief about the Democrats' recently passed health care overhaul.

When a member of the audience asserted that the government would have the power to jail people for not buying health insurance, Coburn said, “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 took another shot at Fox News later in the discussion, when he said: “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. 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."

But it was Coburn's assertion that Pelosi is a "nice lady" that seemed to anger the crowd the most.

"I'm 180 degrees in opposition to the speaker," Coburn said. "She's a nice lady -- wait, come on now," he interjected as the audience groaned.

“Come on now. She is nice – how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person," Coburn said. "Let me give you a little lesson here. I hope you will listen to me. Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re not a good person."

Democrats are blaming Coburn for some 212,000 Americans temporarily losing their unemployment benefits this week after Coburn blocked a one-month extension of federal jobless aid ahead of the Senate's spring break.

Coburn has earned the nickname "Dr. No" for his record of blocking Democratic initiatives on Capitol Hill.

Last month, Coburn proposed an amendment to the health care overhaul that would ban sex offenders from receiving Viagra through the insurance markets created by the plan. That amendment failed.

This audio was recorded by KGOU in Norman, Oklahoma, and was uploaded to the Web by Capitol News Connection, April 5, 2010.