Fact checking Marco Rubio

GOP presidential hopeful and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, speaks during the RedState Gathering in Buckhead in early August. AJC Photo by Brant Sanderlin/BSanderlin@AJC.com.
GOP presidential hopeful and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, speaks during the RedState Gathering in Buckhead in early August. AJC Photo by Brant Sanderlin/BSanderlin@AJC.com.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is among the youngest presidential contenders ever.

But at 44, the son of Cuban immigrants already has a political resume with years of government experience. Now one of 17 candidates in the GOP field, he began his political career as a city commissioner in West Miami for two years, before spending most of his 30s in Florida’s state House, including two years as speaker.

He has been the Sunshine State’s junior senator since 2011 and was also vetted as a possible running mate to Mitt Romney in 2012.

Rubio earned favorable reactions following the first Republican debate, despite the crowded field. That and being a relative newcomer with a compelling backstory are factors in one recent national poll, that showed Rubio had the widest margin of victory over Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

But Rubio is not a newcomer to PolitiFact, which had checked 103 of his statements as of Aug. 27. Of them, 16 were rated True (16 percent), 26 Mostly True (25 percent) and 21 Half True (20 percent).

Another 24 were ruled Mostly False (23 percent) and 14 were False (14 percent). Two of his claims earned the lowest rating, Pants on Fire.

A summary of fact-checks is below. See them all at www.politifact.com/personalities/marco-rubio/.

"This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration. There are a million people a year who legally immigrate to the United States."

Marco Rubio on Aug. 6, 2015 during the GOP debate in Cleveland

Statements about illegal immigration were hot topics during the first Republican debate.

The issue got Rubio in hot water with Tea Party conservatives, who believe he betrayed their stance by taking a lead role in negotiating the 2013 immigration reform bill that included a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants. The bill died in the House after Rubio helped secure it passed the Senate.

In Cleveland, Rubio portrayed the United States as a leader in legal immigration,

"This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration," he said. "There are a million people a year who legally immigrate to the United States and people feel like we are being taken advantage of."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security keeps track of the number of new legal permanent residents a year, and in 2013 it was just shy of 1 million at 990,553. Of the 2013 number, about 46 percent were new arrivals, and about 54 percent were people already in the United States whose status was upgraded to "permanent."

But the United States received fewer immigrants per capita than many other countries, including several in European countries, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

In terms of sheer numbers, that puts the United States ahead of other countries, but not in terms of a percentage of the population.

We rated this claim Mostly True.

"A minor cannot get a tattoo without parental consent but can get an abortion without parental consent."

Marco Rubio in an interview with Southern Baptist Convention President Russell Moore on Aug. 4, 2015

Rubio has joined several other leading Republicans pledging to defund Planned Parenthood following the release of covert videos that an anti-abortion group says shows the group selling fetal tissue for profit.

In an interview with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Rubio raised concerns about nationwide access to abortions for minors:

"The idea that a minor can go get a tattoo," he said, before quickly correcting himself to say "cannot get a tattoo without parental consent — but can get an abortion without parental consent — is just mind-shattering for the vast majority of Americans. … People who believe that a young child, a minor, should be able to get an abortion easier than a tattoo — they are the extremists."

Laws about parental consent for abortion and tattoos vary from state to state, so it’s not possible to make a blanket statement as Rubio did and apply it to the whole country.

At least 45 states have laws prohibiting minors from getting tattoos, with the majority of those states allowing it if there’s parental consent.

When it comes to obtaining an abortion, 38 states, require minors to get consent and/or notify their parents, while in 12 states they don’t need either.

Rubio has a good argument for about 11 states, but that’s a minority. More commonly, parents by law need to be at least notified — and in many cases give their consent — for a minor to have an abortion. There is a significant exception, however: 37 states allow a minor to go through a judge without notifying parents. As for tattoos, most states either ban them for minors or require parental consent.

We rated this claim Half True.

ISIS is "now the predominant Islamist group in Benghazi."

Marco Rubio in a Feb. 13, 2015 radio interview

Rubio has worked to fashion himself as a foreign policy wonk, taking 12 trips abroad since his election and in a February interview, 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."

Experts PolitiFact talked to said that 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.

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.

Under Obamacare, "75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours."

Marco Rubio on July 25, 2013 in a FoxNews.com opinion piece

Rubio was so opposed to Obamacare, the signature health care reform under President Obama, that he argued in an opinion piece in 2013 that Congress should risk shutting down government by refusing a spending bill to fund it.

That’s because he saw "mounting evidence of how Obamacare creates more problems than it solves, particularly for small business owners and the people who work for them." According to his FoxNews.com op-ed, that number is a jaw-dropping 75 percent.

Rubio blamed the law’s now-delayed employer mandate, which requires businesses with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees to offer affordable, comprehensive health coverage or potentially face penalties of $2,000 or more per full-time worker after the first 30.

The 75 percent claim comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly Small Business Outlook Study.

But in that study, less than 10 percent said they might make that choice.

His office cited a news article that misinterpreted ambiguous results from an interest-group survey. But basic statistics about America’s small businesses show the number was seriously unlikely, and a quick message to the U.S. Chamber exposed the error.

Yet opinion pieces under Rubio’s name repeat the claim — one that’s so wrong, it’s ridiculous.

We rated it Pants on Fire.

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ROAD TO 2016

Marco Rubio

Age: 44, born May 28, 1971 in Miami

Political party: Republican

Political experience: City commissioner, West Miami, 1998 to 2000. Florida House of Representatives, including two years as Speaker, 2000 to 2008; elected to U.S. Senate, 2010.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science, University of Florida, 1993. Law degree from University of Miami School of Law, 1996

Family: Wife Jeanette Dousdebes, 4 children.

Interesting factoid: In 2011, newspapers reported that Rubio’s statements that he was the son of "exiles" who fled Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power, were embellished. His parents left in 1956, as economic migrants. Rubio responded, "They wanted to live in Cuba again. They tried to live in Cuba again, and the reality of what it was made that impossible."