POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pandering To Cubans, Giuliani Gets His Facts Wrong

Having won nary a primary and trailing in the polls, Rudy Giuliani needs all the help he can get to pull out a win in the upcoming Florida election.

But for someone whose electoral life depends on the Sunshine State, the former New York City mayor didn't exactly do his homework. During Thursday's debate, Giuliani was asked about the so called "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which states that exiles from Cuba (but not North Korea, Iran, etc.) can remain in America as long as they make contact with U.S. soil (if they are caught at sea, they are returned home).

Giuliani said he supported the policy, specifically because it's been law for so long. "We've had this exception for 40 years," he claimed. "I think it's fair given the history of Castro."

The only problem? The policy is less than 15 years old. It was introduced in 1995 as an amendment to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 by the Clinton administration (Giuliani and the Clintons do agree on policy!). It was established after President Clinton reached an agreement with the Cuban government to stop admitting people found at sea. Here's the transcript:

Tim Russert: Mayor Giuliani, I'd like to ask a follow-up. I think many Americans would be surprised by our policy of wet foot dry foot. If a Cuban is caught at sea, he or she is sent back. If one foot touches American land, they're allowed to stay here. Why should a Cuban be allowed to stay here but not a Mexican, not a Guatemalan, not a Venezuelan feeling Hugo Chavez, someone fleeing North Korea or Iran? Why a special policy for Cubans?

Rudy Giuliani: This was developed in the 1960s. Because the longest dictatorship I believe in the modern world is the one of Fidel Castro. The presumption is that if you're fleeing Fidel Castro given decades and decades of murder, oppression, including most recently the way he cracked down on the Canbio group, Brothers to the Rescue, there's a presumption in the immigration law that if you're fleeing Castro, you're fleeing political persecution. In every other situation you have to prove it. If you can prove you're fleeing political persecution, you'll be accepted. We've had this exception for 40 years. I think it's fair given the history of Castro. And he is the longest-standing dictator I believe in the world.

Giuliani, it should be noted, is desperately seeking the support of the Cuban-American voting bloc in an effort to stave off political extermination. A few weeks ago, the thrice-married former mayor visited the predominantly Cuban El Rey Jesus Church in Hialeah and asked the congregation for its prayers instead of votes. He also quoted scripture.