Jae C. Hong/AP
Sen. Marco Rubio, Aug. 23, 2011.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Aug. 23, 2011. Jae C. Hong/AP
Sen. Marco Rubio blamed the news media Thursday for making too much of his differing versions of the story behind his parents' immigration from Cuba in the 1950s.
While the freshman senator from Florida acknowledged he might have gotten some dates wrong, he told reporters that his overall telling of the story was consistent. Rubio said:
... The story's the same one. Like I said, are there dates that are different, that we were wrong, because I didn't know. I mean, we're talking about things that happened 15 years before I was even born.
But, the bottom line is, the story is essentially the same one, and I think it's been blown way out of proportion by some people in the media.
Fact of the matter is, my parents came here from Cuba in search of a better life. And they always hoped to return to Cuba if they could, they tried, and they've been permanently separated from their homeland, which also makes them exiles. And it's shaped me.
Rubio has made his parents' immigration from Cuba an important part of his own political biography. But the differing versions of the story, some more dramatic than others, have caused some to question whether he has engaged in embellishment.
In one version of the story, Rubio's framing of the story left the impression that his parents fled into exile after Cuban dictator Fidel Castro swept into Havana from the Sierra Maestre mountains in 1959.
But Rubio backed away from that version after the Washington Post's Manuel Roif-Franzia reported that his parents had actually arrived in Florida in 1956.
In a statement on his Senate website in response to the Post story, Rubio indicated that his parents had intended to return to Cuba after the communist takeover. As support for that, he said his mother returned to the island with his older siblings in 1961.
But as NPR's David Welba reported earlier this week, in 2009 Rubio told All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel that his mother returned to Cuba in 1961 to take care of her father who was in an accident.
Rubio added during that interview with Robert that the Cuban government refused to let his mother and brother return to the U.S. for nine months.
On the statement on his website, however, Rubio indicates that his mother and siblings returned to the U.S. after a month and gave no indication that the communists had impeded their exit.
Rubio had been a Republican rising star, frequently mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate. His Cuban-American background was seen as an important asset that could help the party appeal to Hispanic voters, many of whom have been turned off by the GOP's hard-line stance on illegal immigration.
But the discrepancies in his the details he's offered about his family's emigration from Cuba has raised questions about his political future.