Congressman keeps a sense of humor about telling journo, ‘Don’t laugh’

Despite telling a reporter, “Don’t laugh” during what sounded like a testy tussle, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) maintains that he does indeed chuckle himself.

It was a chortle from Marc Caputo, a journalist for The Miami Herald, that set off the feisty exchange with the congressman on Tuesday at a Florida campaign event for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

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The back-and-forth began after Caputo questioned Diaz-Balart about President Obama’s foreign policy record and mentioned the killing of Osama bin Laden and the U.S. involvement in Libya. When the lawmaker suggested that some credit be given to the Bush administration in both cases, Caputo let out his laugh.

In an audio recording Caputo posted on the paper’s website, Diaz-Balart is heard saying, “You laugh — are you a reporter or a debater? ... It’s funny because, and I’m not giving you a hard time here, but usually reporters are reporters, not advocates.” 

Caputo immediately denied being an advocate, but the two sparred verbally for nearly a minute .

Caputo wound up putting the conversation up online with the headline: “Rule #1 for reporters interviewing Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart: Don’t laugh.” The journo told ITK in an email that while the no-laughing mandate from a politician was a first for him, politics in Florida “is a contact sport” and that he enjoyed the give-and-take with Diaz-Balart.

He contends that the source of his chuckle was simply surprise that his interview subject didn’t give Obama much credit for the bin Laden assassination. Caputo also says he thinks the congressman was “a bit tired.”

For his part, Diaz-Balart says it’s safe to laugh around him. In a phone call with ITK, the Florida representative was quick to praise Caputo, calling him “ethical, very fair, and a real professional.”

So does Diaz-Balart ever get the giggles himself? “I couldn’t survive in Washington!” he says, before letting out a bellowing laugh.