The Washington Post published a ridiculous hit piece on Marco Rubio yesterday, claiming that "documents show" that Rubio had "embellished the facts" about his family's history, specifically how they came to America from Cuba.
Because Rubio's family emigrated to America from Cuba in 1956, and Fidel Castro did not officially take power until 1959, writer Manuel Roig-Franzia claims that Rubio should not be able to say he is part of the Cuban exile community, and accuses Rubio of exaggerating his family's history for political gain.
I have decided I will not call this article journalistic malpractice, because that would imply that what Roig-Franzia published yesterday was journalism, instead of an egregious attempt at character assassination. Roig-Franzia's belligerent distortions of history makes him a prime candidate to create the next campaign video for Alan Grayson (of "Taliban Dan" fame).
Let's start by clarifying the events at the time the Rubios emigrated. While Castro did not officially take power until 1959, Cuba was in severe turmoil for years before that. Castro's predecessor, Fulgencio Batista, was himself a brutal dictator, and the communist revolution has its roots in a bloody assault led by Fidel and Raul Castro on the Moncada military barracks on July 26, 1953. The 1954 elections were universally viewed as tainted by fraud and intimidation tactics by the Batista regime, and the next few years would be characterized by frequent anti-Batista riots, frequently involving students.
Unemployment was a serious problem by 1955, leading to further demonstrations by graduating students unable to find work, and ever-increasing repression. In April 1956, General Ramón Barquín led an unsuccessful coup d'état attempt against Batista, who responded with a purge of the officer corps of the Cuban Army and brutal interrogations - often followed by public torture and executions - of suspected dissidents. Young men were especially at risk, as the regime viewed them all as potential revolutionaries.
That is what was happening in Cuba when a twenty-nine year old Mario Rubio decided to bring his wife and young family to America in May 1956 (for the moron birthers out there, note that the paperwork clearly states that the Rubios were "lawfully admitted to the United States" - i.e., they were legalimmigrants). It was far beyond the lack of economic opportunity - Cuba in 1956 was not free, not stable, not safe.
The Rubio family originally planned to move back to Cuba when things calmed down, but it was not meant to be. The Batista regime's brutal oppression continued until it was violently overthrown and Fidel Castro took power in January 1959. The Rubios made brief visits to Cuba, the last of which was in 1961, before giving up that dream.
An "exile" is someone who is in a state of forced or voluntary absence from that person's home country. The Rubio family left Cuba in a period of extreme unrest under Batista and wanted to return later but could not because of Castro, and to claim that they are not exiles is patently absurd.
I realize that it is impossible for a reporter to get every fact right, every time, and I have come to expect a certain amount of liberal media bias. This Washington Post article, however, goes far beyond that. Roig-Franzia displayed a belligerent and aggressive level of stupidity by making accusations that are easily debunked in less than a minute on Wikipedia! The Cuban Revolution deprived Marco Rubio's family of their homeland, period, and Rubio is rightfully and truly a part of the Cuban exile community.
What makes Roig-Franzia's attacks on Rubio even worse is his misrepresentations about what Rubio has actually said about his family history. Marc Caputo at the Miami Herald did an excellent job ripping Roig-Franzia into shreds:
...But the top of the story suggests Rubio himself has given this "dramatatic account:" that "he was the son of exiles, he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after 'a thug,' Fidel Castro, took power."
However, the story doesn't cite one speech where Rubio actually said that.
To back up the lead, the Washington Post excerpts from a 2006 address in the Florida House where Rubio said “in January of 1959 a thug named Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and countless Cubans were forced to flee... Today your children and grandchildren are the secretary of commerce of the United States and multiple members of Congress...and soon, even speaker of the Florida House."
The catch: If you listen to the speech, Rubio isn't just talking about those who specifically fled Cuba after Castro took power. He doesn't say that his parents fled Cuba. Instead, he was talking about "a community of exiles." That is: He was talking about all the Cubans who live in Miami.
Regardless of when his parents left Cuba, they were exiles because they stayed in the US, specifically Miami, in a community where they soon felt they couldn't go back to their homeland. Though the story said his parents left for economic reasons, it's silent about the fact that the dictator before Castro, Batista, was so brutal that it made Castro look like a good alternative at first. (Insert debate over the fairness of the post-Castro Cuban Adjustment Act here).
The Post also says "the supposed flight of Rubio’s parents has been at the core of the young senator’s political identity." That's a stretch. The actual story of the "flight" is far less emphasized than the fact that Rubio's an Hispanic Republican, an immigrant and an exile.
So to suggest Rubio serially embellished the "dramatic" story of his parents fleeing Cuba could be a little too dramatic itself. And it might be an embellishment as well -- absent more information clearly showing Rubio has repeatedly said his parents fled Castro's Cuba.
Rubio's office has told both the [Washington] Post, the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald that his parents came to the United States prior to Castro taking power. And he has said it more than once. In the article we wrote last month about his pending autobiography, Rubio clearly told us his parents came here before Castro took power. He struggled to recall the year (this isn't in the story, it's in my notes) and said it was in "57 or 58 or 59."
When asked pointedly: Was it before the revolution?
Rubio said it was before the revolution
Caputo's description of Rubio emphasizing his family's status as Hispanics and exiles far more than any story of a "flight" matches my own observations.
I have never, not once, heard Rubio claim that his parents faced any specific abuse or oppression under either the Batista or Castro regime. Instead, Rubio frequently speaks of his sadness that the Cuban people continue to suffer under Castro, as well as his appreciation for the upward mobility that America's freedom and capitalist economy allow. Rubio's father worked as a bartender, and Rubio often describes his pride that in one generation, his family could go from working the bar at banquets, to being the guest of honor standing at the podium instead.
So, to sum up: while the Rubios should rightfully be considered part of the Cuban exile community, Rubio has not claimed that his family "fled from" Castro, so Roig-Franzia is misleading at best (and a dirty rotten liar at worst) to accuse Rubio of doing so.
The Washington Post and Manuel Roig-Franzia (as well as whichever blind and ignorant toad of an editor approved that article) owe Rubio a huge apology.
Rubio's Senate office released the following statement yesterday in response to the article:
SENATOR RUBIO COMMENTS ON HIS FAMILY'S HISTORY
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued the following statement regarding outrageous allegations that he embellished his family’s history:
“To suggest my family’s story is embellished for political gain is outrageous. 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.
“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.”