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Marco Rubio: Claims I overplayed my family history "outrageous"

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with his parents. Rubio family photos

Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio slammed a Washington Post article about his family's personal history, though he did not actually deny the central allegation in the story.

The freshman lawmaker released a carefully worded statement late Thursday, calling it "outrageous" to suggest he would exaggerate his family's personal history for political gain, as the newspaper did.

The Post ran a story Thursday alleging that Rubio, who is widely seen as a potential 2012 vice presidential nominee, "embellishes the facts" about his family history - specifically, that he has falsely suggested that his parents were driven from Cuba when Fidel Castro took power.

As the Post noted, the official biography on his Senate website said Rubio's parents "came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." The newspaper also pointed to a 2006 speech in which Rubio, who was about to become speaker of the House in Florida, pointed to Castro taking power in 1959 and said "countless Cubans were forced to flee and come here, many -- most -- here to America."

"Today your children and grandchildren are the secretary of commerce of the United States and multiple members of Congress, they are the CEO of Fortune 500 companies and successful entrepreneurs, they are Grammy-winning artists and they are renowned journalists, they are a United States senator and soon, even speaker of the Florida House," Rubio added.

The problem is that naturalization papers and other official documents examined by the Post showed that Rubio's parents actually came to American in 1956, more than 2.5 years before Castro took power. In the story, Rubio is quoted as saying his account is based on "the oral history of my family," and his office says the family had hoped to return to Cuba and returned several times to assess the situation.

In a statement following the story, Rubio offered something of a non-denial denial, stating that "[t]o suggest my family's story is embellished for political gain is outrageous" while not exactly denying the embellishments. He said his claims have always been based on his "parents' recollection of events."

"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," he said. "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," he continued. "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."

Concluded Rubio: "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."

It is worth noting that the Miami Herald is sort of siding with Rubio, suggesting that the Post overplayed the story. The Herald writes that Rubio has previously said his parents came to America before Castro took power, and that he has a tendency to be "sloppy" with details. It also suggests that Rubio never specifically gave a speech in which he said something along the lines of "my parents came to Cuba after Castro took power."

But that's the implication in the 2006 speech, and, as mentioned earlier, it was included in his official Senate biography. In an Associated Press story from last month on Rubio's plans to write a memoir, Rubio is described as saying he "wants to share the story of his background as the son of Cuban exiles." In this 2010 story in the Herald, Rubio is quoted as saying, "No matter where I go, whatever title I may achieve, I will always be the son of exiles and will always be the heir of two generations of unfulfilled dreams." 

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