The New York Times’ scrutiny of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) past is stirring up controversy on the presidential campaign trail.
Fox News and the conservative-leaning media have been covering the paper’s stories on Rubio relentlessly. Other GOP presidential candidates have been pressed to weigh in. And Rubio himself appears to be milking the issue for all its worth.
Many of these conservatives criticised The Times for allegedly being too aggressive in two recent stories examining Rubio’s record. One report last week revealed the traffic violations he and his wife received. Earlier this week, the other report documented his risky personal finance decisions, including the purchase of three homes and an $US80,000 boat while reportedly not having enough cash to balance the liabilities.
Fox’s Sean Hannity devoted two segments of his Thursday night show to skewering the articles — with the full participation of Rubio’s presidential campaign.
“We take these attacks very seriously — as we need to. Clearly, The New York Times has an agenda here,” Rubio’s communications director, Alex Conant, declared on the show.
Conant also fired off a press release on Tuesday slamming the “elitist” newspaper and arguing that the senator’s finances are actually quite sound.
Hannity’s other segment on the topic featured Robin Leach, the former host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” doing a dramatic reading of the second Times article in order to mock the idea that Rubio lives a luxurious life.
Of course, Republicans slamming The Times is nothing new. Its left-leaning editorial board and headquarters in heavily-Democratic New York City have long made it a favourite target for GOP presidential candidates, some of whom have questionably claimed they don’t even read the prominent paper.
However, the backlash over the Rubio articles has been notably intense. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), a rival presidential candidate, called the stories “petty.” Storms of critics have blasted the newspaper on social media and right-leaning news outlets have ran story after story questioning the reporting. Even “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, who leans left, torched the reports this week.
As many observers have noted, all the attention benefits Rubio’s White House ambitions by rallying conservatives around his cause and advertising his relatively relatable background.
Rubio’s campaign clearly agrees. His team has released multiple fundraising messages about The Times’ stories and claimed earlier this week that they raised $US100,000 in five days because of the reports. Two of the fundraising emails featured “#RubioCrimeSpree” in their subject lines in order to make fun of Rubio’s four traffic violations since 1997.
Rubio himself signed an email Friday morning continuing to raise money off The Times.
“Like millions of Americans, I had to take out student loans to pay for college and law school, and only paid them off recently. But the biggest debt I have is to America,” he wrote. “Look, I know these attacks are part of running for president, but the fact remains that we can’t rely on the media to tell our campaign’s story. And that’s why I need your help.”
For its part, The Times’ Washington bureau chief, Carolyn Ryan, previously defended the paper’s scrutiny of Rubio as part of how it approaches all presidential candidates.
“The vote for president is the most personal vote that Americans cast,” she told The Washington Post after the traffic ticket story. “Voters want to know about these candidates — not just as policy-makers, but as people. It is not at all unusual or unexpected for us to scrutinize candidates’ backgrounds and their lives through public records.”
Robin Leach’s segment on Hannity’s show can be viewed below:
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