Manuel Roig-franzia was on Morning Joe today being lauded for his “inspiring” story about Marco Rubio and the family’s relationship with his brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia. In 1987 Orlando’s house was raided by federal drug enforcement agents and he was arrested for his involvement in a cocaine trafficking scheme, eventually spending 12 years in jail for the offense. Rubio’s sister Barbara – Orlando’s wife – was not charged but observers wondered if she may or may not have been involved as well. How does this relate to the presidential candidate? That’s probably a tough question since Rubio was all of sixteen years old at the time. There was never any connection alleged between the illegal activities and Marco, his mother or the rest of his family.
In one sense you can almost see how this story is a valid topic of discussion, primarily because Rubio has written extensively about his early life, his family and the struggles they overcame. He speaks of such subjects frequently on the campaign trail. While it was no doubt painful to experience and later recall, it was part of his childhood. But Roig-franzia wasn’t satisfied with a simple discussion of the harm the drug trade brought to Florida in the 80s or how many families were impacted. There had to be questions raised about just how involved Orlando was in young Marco’s life. (Emphasis added)
There is no evidence that Rubio or his parents were aware of Cicilia’s drug dealing, and Rubio’s sister was not suspected of any crime. But a deep look at those turbulent years — drawing on previously unreported Drug Enforcement Administration field reports and grand jury testimony, interviews with federal task force agents, and the senator’s writings — reveals that Cicilia was a central figure in the smuggling operation at the same time that he was integrated in the life of the Rubio family…
Rubio, who had moved with his parents back to Miami from Las Vegas more than two years before the arrest, writes poignantly about the arrest’s effect on his sister and parents. But he plays down its impact on him personally, noting that his “family’s troubles didn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the upcoming football season.” …
This goes on throughout the entire, lengthy article. One comment after another stops short of directly accusing Rubio of being somehow involved or influenced, but sticks to the pattern of implying that it’s obviously possible. One of the most egregious examples crops up when the author decides to “wonder” about whether Rubio might have later used his burgeoning political influence to get his brother-in-law out of jail early or if his family took any drug money.
Rubio declined to be interviewed. His spokesman, Todd Harris, said Rubio “was just 16 at the time of the arrest and views this as a private family matter involving events that occurred almost 30 years ago.” Initially, Rubio declined to answer written questions about whether Orlando Cicilia ever provided financial support to him or his family, or if he took any steps to help secure the early release of his brother-in-law from federal prison. Harris sent an email after this story was published online Saturday night saying that Rubio did not help Cicilia win early release. Harris did not address the financial support question.
The editors of the Washington Post should basically be held liable for this level of shoddy, biased, attack dog publishing. There is an implicit accusation in repeatedly saying in one paragraph that Rubio “declined to be interviewed” for what was obviously a hit piece. The author then goes on to fire off two back to back, thinly veiled accusations: that Rubio’s family (when he was a teenager) may have accepted money from a drug dealer and that he may have improperly used his influence to get Orlando out of jail. This is immediately followed by an acknowledgement that they have zero proof that the family received any such financial support and that the Rubio campaign did, in fact, respond to the question of influence peddling on his family’s behalf. No further evidence is ever offered to support the idea that Rubio might have done so.
I’m not saying that Marco Rubio has some clear path to the nomination at this point, but this was just a shameful moment in journalism. Pretending that this is a valid line of attack simply because Rubio mentions his childhood frequently on the stump is a sham and this author should be described as a Democrat operative rather than a “journalist” in any sense of the word.