To watch Juan Williams' uncut interview of Manuel Roig-Franzia, click above.
With a telegenic charisma and backing from both the Tea Party and the conservative establishment alike, Marco Rubio has become the GOP’s fastest rising Latino star.
A new unauthorized biography by Washington Post journalist Manuel Roig-Franzia details the Florida senator’s leap toward national fame, while also raising uncomfortable questions about his past.
“The Rise of Marco Rubio” first attracted headlines when Roig-Franzia reported that Rubio’s parents had not arrive in the U.S. fleeing the Fidel Castro regime, as the American-born Rubio had led his constituents to believe, but rather had arrived in 1956—four years before the Cuban Revolution took power.
“It was so important to his political identity,” Roig-Franzia told Juan Williams in an exclusive interview with Fox News Latino. “I very innocently was looking up background material about the family, and stumble upon this date, 1956, on some immigration documents. And I tell you what, I thought it was a typo.”
For a Florida conservative who had yet to define his immigration stance clearly, the story made it seem as though Rubio’s family might have more in common than originally imagined with the millions of Latin Americans who migrated to the United States since the 1990s, principally for economic reasons.
Rubio, who began work on his autobiography “An American Son” around the same time as Roig-Franzia began to profile him, declined to grant Roig-Franzia further interviews after the report about the arrival of his family.
Roig-Franzia’s book also narrates the story of Rubio’s grandfather, a man who simultaneously symbolizes the up-from-poverty American Dream ideal and the problems faced by the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Born in a thatched hut in the Cuban hamlet of Jicotea, Pedro Victor García immigrated to the United States in 1956. He returned to Cuba after Castro’s victory, hoping the Revolution might bring more prosperity. But Cuba had changed, and he returned to the United States within a few years.
“That’s when things got bad,” Roig-Franzia said. “He was stopped at the airport, because he had no visa. Eventually he was ordered deported from the United States.”
Rubio’s grandfather became an undocumented immigrant, but his status was resolved following the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
The book also delves into some of the Florida scandals that pestered Rubio before hitting the national stage.
While campaigning for his U.S. Senate seat in 2010, the Florida press reported that Rubio had used a Republican Party-issued credit card to pay for frivolities including movie tickets, wine and $130 haircuts.
“Some of the things were just silly,” Roig-Franzia said.
After the episode made the local press, Rubio returned the money.
Rubio also maintained a close friendship with Congressman David Rivera, who has been dogged by corruption allegations, but no formal charges, since his election in 2010.
The two own a house together in Tallahassee, which fell into foreclosure proceedings after they fell behind on their payments.
“That’s something that has been very central to his time in Washington, DC, the government getting its financial house in order,” Roig-Franzia said. “These financial problems that he’s run into in the past undercut that message.”
Rubio once again resolved this issue after it became public, Roig-Franzia said.
But though the book has attracted attention for shining a light on Rubio’s less flattering side, Roig-Franzia says he views Rubio as a potentially historic figure, and in that sense the book celebrates his political ascendancy.
“His story is fascinating. It’s a classic American story that starts in Cuba, and goes to Florida and moves on to the United States,” Roig-Franzia said. “I wanted to write about the good things that people say about him, and think about him, and not be afraid to write about the things that people criticize him for.”