MIAMI (AP) - Florida's freshman U.S. senator and rising GOP star Marco Rubio is fighting back against allegations he embellished his family's history by claiming his parents were Cuban exiles.
Rubio's website says his parents came to America following Fidel Castro's 1959 takeover, and he has always publicly identified with the exile community. In turn he has maintained a strong and loyal political following within its Miami hub.
But media reports Thursday revealed his parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1956, when Cuban dictator Fulgencia Batista was still in power and Fidel Castro had just been released from prison and exiled in Mexico. Rubio's father was a bartender at a Havana hotel when he and his wife left, and Rubio's staff said he came for economic reasons.
The story was first reported by the St. Petersburg Times.
Rubio responded to the report with a statement saying his parents had tried to return to Cuba in March of 1961 in hopes that things were improving on the island post-revolution but quickly left because they did not want to live under communism.
"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," he wrote. "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."
The return date is significant because it means Rubio's family planned to return to the island just as more than a thousand Cuban exiles from Miami were preparing for their doomed April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in order to topple Castro's fledgling government.
Even if his parents were initially hopeful that things would be better under Fidel Castro, they would have been among the many Cubans who later fled the country after supporting the revolution and opposing the corruption under Batista.
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