Marco Rubio: Washington Post Misses Point Of My Family Story

Oct 21, 2011 | Updated Dec 21, 2011

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sharpened his defense of his family story Friday, penning an op-ed in Politico that again sought to beat back a recent report claiming that he had embellished the details of his parents' exodus from their native Cuba for political gain.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Rubio had "repeated a compelling version of his family's history" that took liberties with the actual dates of his parents' entry into the United States. According to the report, Rubio's parents didn't, as the senator has claimed, leave Cuba while the Castro regime was in power. The issue of being exiled from Cuba when communist control was established has "special resonance in South Florida" and "gives a politician cachet that could never be achieved by someone identified with the pre-Castro exodus" the Post wrote.

Rubio passionately attempted to deflect the Post's report in a Politico op-ed slamming it as "an outrageous allegation that is not only incorrect, but an insult to the sacrifices my parents made to provide a better life for their children."

The Florida senator maintained that his account of his parents' move to the U.S. had always been based on an imprecise oral history of the event, but admitted that he recently learned that they had actually first "entered the U.S. legally on an immigration visa in May of 1956," long before Castro began to take power on New Year's Day of 1959.

But that shouldn't undermine the broader message of parents' story, Rubio wrote:

But the Post story misses the point completely. The real essence of my family's story is not about the date my parents first entered the United States. Or whether they traveled back and forth between the two nations. Or even the date they left Fidel Castro's Cuba forever and permanently settled here.

The essence of my family story is why they came to America in the first place; and why they had to stay.

Rubio then took issue with the dates from the Post story, writing that his parents didn't fully abandon Cuba until 1961.

In February 1961, my mother took my older siblings to Cuba with the intention of moving back. My father was wrapping up family matters in Miami and was set to join them.

But after just a few weeks, it became clear that the change happening in Cuba was not for the better. It was communism. So in late March 1961, just weeks before the Bay of Pigs invasion, my mother and siblings left Cuba and my family settled permanently in the United States.

Rubio laid out a similar timeline in an earlier statement, relayed here by the Associated Press.

The Post's editor and reporter on the story stood by their work Friday, answering several of the complaints on their website:

What our piece does point out is that the Rubio biography on his own Senate Web site mentions in the second sentence that his parents “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” That turns out not to be correct, which Rubio’s office acknowledges. Manuel did interview Rubio himself Thursday afternoon, and we include in our story Rubio’s comments that accounts of his parents’ migration have been based on “the oral history of my family.”

Read Rubio's entire Politico op-ed here.