Marco Rubio privately apologized to Donald Trump for talking about his small hands during a presidential debate earlier this year, the Florida senator said in a reflective television interview that aired Sunday.
"I said, you know, I'm sorry that I said that," Rubio told CNN's Jake Tapper. "That's not who I am, and I shouldn't have done it. And I didn't say it in front of the cameras. I didn't want any political benefit."
In late February, leading up to the Super Tuesday election contests, then-candidate Rubio had mocked Trump's hands -- "You know what they say about men with small hands" -- which prompted Trump at a subsequent debate to memorably defend his size: "I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee."
Rubio, who is now backing Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, told Tapper the comment "embarrassed" his family, and he apologized to Trump at a later debate.
"It's not who I am," Rubio said. "You did it almost in a sense of, you know, nothing -- at this point-- nothing is working. I mean, this guy is out there every day mocking people, saying horrible things about people, but if you respond to him somehow you're hitting below the belt? And that was my sense of it at the time."
"I ended up hurting myself, not him."
Rubio said making fun of Trump didn't cost him the election but didn't help. The more pivotal moment, he said, came in a New Hampshire debate, when then-rival Chris Christie eviscerated Rubio for sounding like a programmed robot.
"It was a mistake," Rubio said of failing to adjust his reponse and take Christie on. Had he done so, "we would have had a better result in New Hampshire." Trump might have ended up the nominee regardless, but the post-New Hampshire race trajectory "would have been dramatically different."
Rubio also told Tapper he didn't realize when he took on Jeb Bush at an earlier debate that their exchange would be viewed as a smackdown of Bush.
"I didn't take any great pleasure in like, 'Oh, I really stuck it to him,'" Rubio said. "I didn't even think it was that big a deal during the debate. It was only after that I realized people had kind of built it up into this moment."