WaPo: Documents show Rubio's parents didn't initially flee Cuba because of Castro; Update: Rubio slams WaPo; Update: Miami Herald challenges WaPo story

It’s not as lame as the Journal’s big expose about Rick Perry’s campaign plane being haunted by Cocaine Ghosts, but it’s still underwhelming.

During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the son of exiles, he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power.

But a review of documents — including naturalization papers and other official records — reveals that Rubio’s dramatic account of his family saga embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than 2½ years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959…

Rubio’s office on Thursday confirmed that his parents arrived in the United States in 1956 but noted that “while they were prepared to live here permanently, they always held out the hope and the option of returning to Cuba if things improved.” They returned to Cuba several times after Castro came to power to “assess the situation with the hope of eventually moving back,” the office said in a statement.

In a brief interview Thursday, Rubio said his accounts of the family’s migration has been based on family lore. “I’m going off the oral history of my family,” he said. “All of these documents and passports are not things that I carried around with me.”…

His office tried to clarify the facts in its statement Thursday. After their 1956 arrival, the couple visited Cuba after Castro’s takeover. In 1961, Oriales Rubio took her two children back to Cuba “with the intention of remaining permanently.” Mario remained in Florida “wrapping up the family’s matters.” But within weeks of arriving there, “it because clear that Cuba was headed full speed towards Communism and they decided to return to the U.S,” the statement said.

Rubio’s staff allowed The Post to examine copies of his parents’ passports. They showed that between the couple’s admission for permanent residence and Castro’s victory on January 1, 1959, his father spent five days in Cuba and his mother spent no more than 2 months and 3 days there. The passports show that Rubio’s mother made at least four short trips to the island after Castro’s victory, including a month long stay in February and March 1961.

In other words, his parents didn’t leave the country because they hated Castro and communism. They merely refused to return to the country — for more than 50 years — because they hated Castro and communism. If you’re willing to call the former a case of “exile” but not the latter, you’re more of a stickler than I. Via e-mail, a friend sums up the story this way: “Turns out that Rubio doesn’t score high enough on the immigration-sad-story-drama scale.” Right, but there’s also no excuse for him not to have had a staffer run through the documents to get this right, especially considering he might be on the ticket as soon as next year. Even if you believe that he sincerely thought his parents had come here later, he’s been inadvertently misleading audiences and handing the Democrats/media a weapon to swing at him. Such sloppiness demands a wrist slap. *Slap.* Anything else to say here?

Here he is today on Fox News celebrating the end of Qaddafi. He’s been a fierce supporter of NATO’s intervention in Libya, which is part of his anti-Castro/anti-dictator approach but is also potentially a huge liability in a party that’s gradually trending less hawkish. If things go to hell there — and there are already warning signs — future opponents will never let him hear the end of it. And by future opponents, I don’t mean Democrats.

Update: Via the Corner, the inevitable indignant reply.

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.

Update: The big expose might not last a day. Marc Caputo at the Miami Herald takes a hatchet to WaPo:

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.

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