Democratic-leaning PAC targets Rubio in exile controversy
October 27th, 2011
05:11 PM ET
11 years ago

Democratic-leaning PAC targets Rubio in exile controversy

Washington (CNN) - The knives are out for Marco Rubio.

Ever since revelations surfaced that the Florida senator had made a series of misstatements about his family history, a Democratic-leaning political action committee called American Bridge 21st Century has compiled other instances in which Rubio appeared to get his facts wrong on the same subject.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, American Bridge president Rodell Mollineau confirmed that political calculations for 2012 were a motivating factor for aggregating the damaging material.

"Oh yeah, I think that it does. And I'm not making any bones about that," Mollineau said.

Despite pleas from Republicans, Rubio has ruled out being on the GOP ticket in 2012. But that has not stopped the chatter in Washington. Top Republicans believe Rubio as a vice presidential nominee could take Florida away from President Obama who won the battleground state by roughly 200 thousand votes in 2008.

"If he is going to be bandied about as a vice presidential candidate, don't you think people should know more about him?" Mollineau asked. "We'd like the American people to know a little bit more about Marco Rubio," he added.

The Washington Post first reported on the discrepancies in Rubio's public comments on his life story last week.

The controversy forced his staff to correct errors in the biography posted on his Senate web site.

Until last week, that Senate bio stated: "In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." Now it reads: "Marco was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956."

During a series of events in Florida Thursday, Rubio admitted to reporters he botched the details of his own family story.

"Do I wish I had known those dates? Absolutely. Does it change anything? Absolutely not," Rubio said.

The political operatives at American Bridge say the dates do matter. They've posted a YouTube video that shows a montage of sound bytes in which Rubio repeatedly refers to himself and his family as "exiles."

"I was raised by exiles," Rubio says in one clip. In another clip, Rubio says his family left Cuba in 1959.

The video accuses the senator of embellishing his life story for political gain and suggests Rubio is not really a Cuban exile because his parents left the island before Castro took power.

During interviews throughout his campaign for the Senate, Rubio labeled his family as "exiles."

"It's hard to be apolitical when you're exiles or raised by exiles," Rubio said in a CNN interview last year.

Rubio does not apologize. He says his parents are exiles because they could not return to Cuba under communism.

"They spent the rest of their lives, my mom is still alive, permanently separated from their nation of birth. That makes them both exiles and immigrants," Rubio told reporters.

Mollineau accused Rubio of playing a game of semantics over the definition of the term "exiles." He called on the senator to admit he "misled" voters.

"I think at this point the only person that's keeping the story alive is actually not us. I think it's actually Senator Marco Rubio," Mollineau said.

Mollineau is a former staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The American Bridge PAC he heads receives much of its funding from unions and high profile California contributors. It was founded by David Brock, who also launched the liberal media watchdog group, Media Matters for America.

According to Federal Election Commission records, American Bridge has collected $100,000 contributions from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union. Hollywood director JJ Abrams chipped in $37,500.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American Republican Congresswoman from South Florida, says Rubio is under attack because he could divert Latino votes away from Democratic candidates.

"They're going to try to do everything that they can to tear him down," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Marco Rubio's family is the Cuban exile experience, whether they came pre-Castro or post," she added.

At a hearing of her committee Thursday, Ros-Lehtinen mocked questions about Rubio's exile status in a query of her own to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"My question madam secretary deals with my native homeland of Cuba. Although in recent weeks I feel the need to carry my papers with me to find out when it is that I actually got to the United States," Ros-Lehtinen quipped.

For now, Rubio is fighting fire with fire.

On Thursday, his political action committee appeared to make a veiled reference to the exile controversy in an email to supporters seeking contributions.

"Why are Washington liberals coordinating attacks on Marco Rubio?" the email asked.

Filed under: Florida • Marco Rubio
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. skarphace

    I agree with Lost in Texas. This would be a non-issue except for the fact that our President has been attacked repeatedly concerning his citizenship. If you don't like it, don't dish it out.

    If selected for VP, Rubio better be ready to come up with his long-form birth certificate. Otherwise, we will send Trump after him.

    October 27, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  2. JK

    Love to see the Dems continue to beat up on him. It will further weaken the Democratic Party with Hispanic voters.

    October 27, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  3. One of the 99%

    Rubio is not really one of us! We need to check his birth certificate. I believe he was brought here as a child. He was born in Cuba.

    October 27, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  4. Mark Evans

    The media needs to stop paying attention to Trump he is a problem child creating a circus act , This is anough of this nonsence he is nobody with no agenda except his own , Im tired of watching him make a fool of himself.

    October 28, 2011 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  5. Hair bear

    Well is this guys parents one of the illegals that were trying to send back to there native land. If not then he's just one of there off springs born here in America now trying to take over. Wake up America that's what's going on here with these so called immigrants. Putting them in elected offices so they can make our decisions.

    October 28, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  6. Name tunji12

    My questions is bowa rubio was end up win in florida because he is associate him self with the party that's hate imingrants so much

    October 28, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  7. Tired of the spin!

    Why can't we all, including the press, get it right. Please look at the dates of the Cuban Revolution......1953-1959..."The Cuban Revolution was the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista’s regime by the 26th of July Movement and the establishment of a new Cuban government led by Fidel Castro in 1959. It began with the assault on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953, and ended on February 1, 1959, when Batista was driven from the country and the cities Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba were seized by rebels, led by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro's surrogates Raúl Castro and Huber Matos, respectively." So my friends the facts are the facts.........

    October 28, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  8. fmac

    a lying politician, whats new.

    October 28, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. post

    The point is that he lied. doesn't matter what he lied about but being caught in that situation means he lost his credibility. Once it is proven beyond a doubt that he lied for political gain he can not be trusted with anything he says. he was caught up in a scandal while speaker of the Florida house and now this, what other skeletons does this guy have. Can we impeach him? He is close friends with another untrustworthy House Rep from Florida, David Riveria.

    October 28, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  10. Steve851

    It's incredible how the media tries to make a big story about virtually nothing. How many people with this story line influence? The number ids below insignificant. And I'm not a Rubio fan. He's a big government guy (r.e., Terri Schiavo)

    October 28, 2011 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  11. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    If his family were exiles due to oppression under the Batista regime, then they should have been pleased when Castro took over. Otherwise, the real exile community (most of whom lost just about everything under Castro) will lose whatever standing they have left in the eyes of the rest of America.
    If his family were immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves in America than they had in Cuba, then they are no more exiles than my Grandfather was when he left Italy in the 1914 or my Great-Grandfather was when he left German in the 1880s.

    October 28, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  12. Marine64

    His family could go back to Cuba any time they want,we don't hold them against there will here. The choice was their's to stay. So I wouldn't call them exciles.

    October 28, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  13. lisa

    DIdnt seemed to mattter so much when obama was running...he could do anything in his past and the press just skmmed over it.. just afraid of rubio that's all...

    October 28, 2011 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
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