Fact-checking Sen. Marco Rubio
Updated Monday, April 13, 2015 at 6:51 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who used his conservative cred and personal story about the American dream to catapult to one of the GOP’s top young Hispanic stars, announced Monday that he will run for president in 2016.
His announcement marks a rapid political ascent for Rubio, a former Florida House speaker. At age 39, he won one of Florida’s most dramatic political upsets when his surging candidacy for Senate prompted then Gov. Charlie Crist to abandon his party and become an independent in 2010. Rubio was part of the successful Republican wave that year and won his first statewide race.
Rubio could face his former mentor Gov. Jeb Bush who is exploring a bid for president.
After he was elected in 2010, Rubio became a national figure with an inspiring background as the son of working-class Cuban immigrants. He was part of a bipartisan group that led the Senate to approve an immigration bill in 2013. (The House wouldn’t bring the bill up for a vote, though.)
Rubio took the spotlight again in December 2014 to denounce President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba after five decades. He released a book, American Dreams, in January.
But even as his hopes for immigration legislation were dashed, Rubio refashioned himself as a prominent GOP figure who could talk with expertise on a long list of topics. We’ve fact-checked Rubio 85 times on a variety of claims including about climate change, Common Core, Cuba, the federal health care law, foreign affairs, guns, poverty, space and technology.
Here are highlights from our Rubio fact-checks.
On Dec. 17, 2014, Obama said the United States would be re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than five decades, as well as easing longstanding travel and export restrictions.
To Rubio, the agreements to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba were one-sided, with the United States drawing the short end of the stick.
Rubio said that in the negotiations, "no commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties or to even begin the semblance of a transition to a democracy" in Cuba.
He was largely correct. Cuba did promise to release 53 political prisoners, take steps to open up the Internet and allow greater scrutiny by international organizations. But the secret talks led to no breakthroughs in structural reform for a political system dominated for more than half a century by the Castro brothers. Rather than producing pro-democratic results now, the agreement seeks to create the conditions for results later. We rated this statement Mostly True.
In November 2014, Obama announced a landmark executive action on immigration. The policy change would primarily affect more than 4 million immigrants who have lived illegally in the United States for more than five years but who have children who are citizens or have green cards.
During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Commerce in February, Rubio said the government needs to focus on securing the border. "There are at least three sectors of the border, one in particular, that are just completely insecure," he said. We don’t know how Rubio came up with three sectors, and neither did experts we spoke with. There certainly is one sector of late with a troubling amount of activity, the Rio Grande in south Texas.
However, the number of people attempting to cross the border is down considerably everywhere else, and the effectiveness rating is up in eight of nine sectors since 2006, including the areas with the most significant activity. We rated Rubio’s statement Mostly False.
Rubio talked foreign policy during a Feb. 13, 2015, radio appearance, discussing at length the extremist group Islamic State’s goals and strength across Africa and Asia. He then invoked the name of a city many Americans likely would remember.
"ISIS has now set up a very significant hub in Libya," Rubio said. "They are now the predominant Islamist group in Benghazi."
While there are myriad militias, radical militants, armed groups and even multiple governments in Libya, Islamic State’s footprint is still relatively small. Besides some activity in pockets across the country, the group holds sway in Derna, but not so much in Benghazi, experts say.
There, the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia has been most visible among radicalized factions. Some reports say the group has formed an alliance with ISIS, but researchers dispute that, though some Ansar al-Sharia members almost certainly have defected.
Experts also say the situation is fluid, which provides Rubio some additional, albeit small, amount of cover. His statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rated it Mostly False.
In the spring of 2014, scientists issued reports warning about climate change.
Just a day before those reports were released, Rubio said, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." (That wasn’t the first time that Rubio had disputed the basic science of climate change.)
A May 2013 report analyzing all scientific papers that address the causes of climate change showed 97.1 percent of scientists’ findings that took a position agree that there’s been a negative human impact on the atmosphere. We rated Rubio’s statement False.
In another interview in May, Rubio elaborated on his point. He said that "despite 17 years of dramatic increases in carbon production by humans, surface temperatures (on) the earth have stabilized."
He had a point that over roughly the past decade and a half, global surface temperatures have "paused," particularly compared to their rapid rise in previous decades. But scientists we interviewed said the word "stabilized" represents an unjustified leap from the data, since "stabilized" suggests that we have gotten through the worst of climate change. More likely, the evidence suggests that the "pause" in global surface temperatures is temporary. We rated Rubio’s statement Mostly False.
In April 2014, the White House celebrated when 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act marketplaces since their opening in October 2013.
Critics, including Rubio, were not impressed.
"I mean, the purpose of Obamacare was not to get 7 million people or 6 million people, or whatever the number now is, to sign up on a website," Rubio said. "The purpose of Obamacare, according to them, was to get more people insurance. And by all accounts, it's going to fall woefully short. You're still going to have 30-some-odd million people in this country uninsured."
Rubio mixed up the long-term target with the goal for the first year. The clearly stated goal for 2014, that the White House hit just in time, was 7 million signups. By 2019, that number is expected to jump to 27 million. We rated his claim Mostly False.
In July 2013, Rubio said that under Obamacare, "75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours."
Rubio drew his statement from a U.S. Chamber Commerce study of small businesses. However he failed to explain that the question about firing or cutting hours wasn’t asked of all the businesses that participated in the survey. The study showed that less than 10 percent said they might make that choice. We rated his claim Pants on Fire.
Spot a claim by Sen. Marco Rubio or other politicians worthy of a fact-check? Tweet us #PolitiFactThis or email us firstname.lastname@example.org