Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is coming to the defense of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who's fighting allegations that he embellished his family's history by saying his parents fled Cuba before Fidel Castro's communist revolution.
Romney said on Saturday that Rubio -- a rising GOP star who's often discussed as a potential vice presidential pick -- and his family deserve the highest praise and recognition. Romney regarded the recent news reports as an attempt to smear the Florida senator.
National Journal reports that the former Massachusetts governor said, "I think the world of Marco Rubio, support him entirely and think that the effort to try to smear him was unfortunate and bogus."
Romney made the remarks to reporters in his New Hampshire campaign headquarters.
The AP relays background on the controversy surrounding Rubio:
The 40-year-old freshman senator has always publicly identified with the exile community and has a strong following within it. In a campaign ad last year, he said: "As the son of exiles, I understand what it means to lose the gift of freedom." Rubio's biography on his Senate website previously said he was "born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who come to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." It has been changed to say Rubio "was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956."
But The Washington Post reported that Rubio's parents actually left Cuba in 1956, nearly three years before Castro seized power in a revolution against dictator Fulgencia Batista. Rubio's father was a store security guard when he and his wife left, according to Rubio's staff, and came to the U.S. for economic reasons.
Rubio responded to the story with a statement saying his parents had tried to return to Cuba in March 1961 but quickly left because they did not want to live under communism.
The Republican senator said, "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 added, "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."
Rubio has said publicly on previous occasions that his parents left Cuba before the revolution. The Post reports that the Florida Republican's biography has been updated on his Senate website.