Democratic-leaning PAC targets Rubio in exile controversy
October 27th, 2011
05:11 PM ET
10 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. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Before he was elected, Rubio was spending republican funds to buy items for himself. He got away with it then, so I don't think his lying about this will hurt him much.

    October 27, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  2. soren

    Yawn, there is no controversy here.

    October 27, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. sick of republican phonies

    Geez, my name says it all.

    October 27, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. XY

    Cuban-Americans are terrific citizens, and we should value them for their understanding of the contrast between freedom and communism. But Dems should be careful when using immigrant families as political tools, since our President himself is first generation. They need to make clear that the issue is exploiting one's history and being less than truthful.

    October 27, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. Bill

    The shooting star of the GOP falls back to earth with a thud.

    October 27, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. v_mag

    That's John Cornyn behind him. He's working the mouth and arm controls on Marco. Pretty good ventriloquist, that Cornyn.

    October 27, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Rubio is just another lying scum politician.

    October 27, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |

    Rubio is a liar! And votes to kill jobs. You can do better FL.

    October 27, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    XY – Huh? Cuban Americans add to our diversity, and make up 3% of Latinos. But the republicans have fired up a lot of hate against all immigrant families. To say that our president is a first generation means you are not the brightest bulb on the Christmas Tree.

    October 27, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. Lost in Texas FOREVER and EVER

    as long as the GOP has gone after President Obama on him "not REALLY being one of us", they have opened the door for such endless speculation. Personally I could think of the money being used to do this could be put to good use elsewhere, but in these days of right wing foolishness I say what is good for the goose is darn sure good for the gander.

    October 27, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. Garyd2

    Typical republicans, lie about everything and do nothing.

    October 27, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. teena

    the republicans just hate getting called on the carpet when they lie–er I mean misspeak!

    October 27, 2011 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  13. sarah-fl

    He lied plain and simple and now he wants to tell us he never said that! Please tell it to his cuban base community when they were all over him live a god given gift, what a tool. Sorry floridians we've been had again and again.

    October 27, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Donkey Party

    It's one thing if Democrats fabricated a story about Rubio, it's entirely different if Rubio fabricated a story about himself, especially for political gain. That is the issue here, this isn't some left-wing smear job, it's calling out Rubio on his lies.

    October 27, 2011 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  15. sundrop

    A republican soldier lied about his medals and war experiences. Never been in war and did not earn any medals. The conservatives said at least he served. It does not matter.

    October 27, 2011 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. Habanero

    As a Cuban American whose parents departure from Cuba very closely mirrors Rubios parents alleged time frame, I can easily say in all honesty that Rubio is not being truthful because there is a far darker side of his story, that he does not want
    anyone to know. Only a Cuban living in Cuba in 1956 would know the real reason why Rubios parents left at that time, as my parents also did.
    It was 1956, I was three years old
    and my father had just been released
    from prison. He had been implicated in a bombing against the brutal oppresive regime of Batista, who used a heavy hand of fear and terror to justify his illegitimate goverment.
    Thousands on Cubans where falsely imprisioned, as my father was. Many more thousands where to face firing squads, which would have my fathers fate if not for intervention by my godfather who had connections with some of Batista's cronies and a
    $10,000 bribe saved his life. Rubios parents also left the island at the same time 1956 for the US, maybe perhaps to better themselves but more importantly to escape the
    "thug" murderer Batista. What Rubio is trying to hide and does want known is that Republican Vice President Richard Nixon went to
    Cuban in 1955 to endorse Batista
    and legitimize his goverment
    claiming that his election had been fair. (nothing could be further from the truth) So there you have it,
    Rubios parents as my own left the island in 1956 to escape Batistas false muderous goverment, endorsed by the very same Republican party he now represents. Hypocrasy comes in many forms, Rubios is monumental. My father always had the most unkind things to say about Nixon and the Republicans, yet was always thankful to the US for giving him the opportunity to escape Batista as a political refugee. Rubio is a liar at best and now his pandora's box is wide open.

    October 27, 2011 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  17. w l jones

    In the old Jewish law who your mother is determine who one is. Said enough.

    October 27, 2011 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  18. howard bitterman

    The Republican ticket for 2012
    The Three R's

    Romney.Rubio & Ruin

    October 27, 2011 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  19. thomas

    Rubio had all the luxuries that were granted to Cuban exiles .

    I'm sure he would act differently if he immigrated from Mexico or Porto Rico ?

    October 27, 2011 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  20. Juanita

    Who is to say whether his parents are exiles or immigrants? A person can inter pret their parents' journey in any way that they want. The problems come in when he takes his personal experiences and tries to gain money for them and create a fascade of lies. Politics has come down to who can create the best lie for their own gain in a sense.

    October 27, 2011 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  21. Switters

    I live in south Florida and I'm a Democrat – so in order to be fair on this – I'm wiling to yield to the opinions of Orly Taitz and Alan Keyes on this matter...........

    October 27, 2011 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  22. Clwyd

    Republicans are known for their loony tune comments that are based on their imaginations!

    October 27, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  23. John

    Rubio is actually literally telling a BIG lie to gain political advantage.

    October 27, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. tor5

    Funny. Obama tells the truth about his background and is still hounded to this day by Republican birthers who have never had a shred of evidence to support their delusions. Then Rubio gets caught red-handed lying repeatedly about his background and Republicans cry about how “unfair” it is. And by the way, they suddenly love immigrants! What a joke of a party.

    October 27, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  25. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He needed to be specific with his story from the get go. With all the holes that people found in his story, his political opponets cast doubts on his origins and his whole reason that many people voted for him and his policy perspective.

    October 27, 2011 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
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