Tea party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio hit back on Friday against a report that he embellished his family’s story to gain acceptance among Florida’s powerful Cuban voting bloc.
But Rubio, who is being tipped as a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate, admitted his parents did not flee Cuba to escape the Castro regime, but in fact moved to the United States nearly three years before the revolution that brought Communism to the Caribbean island.
“To suggest my family’s story is embellished for political gain is outrageous,” Rubio said in a statement. “The dates I have given regarding my family’s history have always been based on my parents’ recollections of events that occurred over 55 years ago and which were relayed to me by them more than two decades after they happened. I was not made aware of the exact dates until very recently.”
The Washington Post reported that Rubio’s parents, Mario and Oriales, left Cuba in May 1956 with their 6-year-old son, also called Mario. It said his mother returned several times after the 1959 revolution in which Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime, once staying there for a month. His father also returned at least once.
On his Senate website, Rubio says that his parents “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.”
That account was still posted on Friday morning despite the new revelations. The Post reported that in a 2010 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Rubio said, “My parents, grandparents came here from Cuba in ’58, ’59.”
The Post said the new revelations could potentially hurt Rubio among Florida’s Cuban community, as those who left before Castro took power are “sometimes viewed with suspicion,” by émigrés who fled the Communists.
In an piece he wrote for the website, Politico.com, Rubio says if his dates were off, he accepts responsibility.
"If The Washington Post wants to criticize me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question the central and defining event of my parents’ young lives – the fact that a brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were never able to return – is something I will not tolerate."
In his statement, Rubio, who was born in 1970, more than a decade after his parents came to the United States but before they took citizenship, said, “What’s important is that the essential facts of my family’s story are completely accurate.
“My parents are from Cuba. After arriving in the United States, they had always hoped to one day return to Cuba if things improved and traveled there several times.
In 1961, my mother and older siblings did in fact return to Cuba while my father stayed behind wrapping up the family’s matters in the U.S. After just a few weeks living there, she fully realized the true nature of the direction Castro was taking Cuba and returned to the United States one month later, never to return.
“They were exiled from the home country they tried to return to because they did not want to live under communism. That is an undisputed fact and to suggest otherwise is outrageous.”
Rubio chides the post further adding, "The Post story misses the entire point about my family and why their story is relevant. People didn’t vote for me because they thought my parents came in 1961, or 1956, or any other year. Among others things, they voted for me because, as the son of immigrants, I know how special America really is. As the son of exiles, I know how much it hurts to lose your country.
Ultimately what The Post writes is not that important to me. I am the son of exiles. I inherited two generations of unfulfilled dreams. This is a story that needs no embellishing."
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