By Tom Brown
MIAMI (Reuters) - Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican often mentioned as a possible 2012 vice presidential candidate, dismissed as "outrageous" on Friday a report claiming he embellished his Cuban exile roots.
But the Miami-born Rubio, 40, a fresh-faced Tea Party darling elected to his first Senate term in November, acknowledged "getting a few dates wrong" about when his parents actually left the Caribbean island.
He has often spoken about being the "son of exiles" who were forced to flee their beloved homeland and then worked hard to give their children a better future in the United States.
His official Senate website, which touts his "principled" leadership, says he is the son of "Cuban born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover."
But the Washington Post, in a report on Friday based on naturalization and other official records, said Rubio's parents were admitted for official U.S. residence more than 2-1/2 years before Fidel Castro took power in Cuba on New Year's Day 1959.
Rubio, in a column posted on Politico.com, said the newspaper had accused him of seeking political advantage in his family history by spinning a conventional economic migration story into a more compelling tale of political exile.
"This is an outrageous allegation," he said.
"If the Washington Post wants to criticize me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question the central and defining event of my parents' young lives -- the fact that a brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were never able to return -- is something I will not tolerate," Rubio said.
He later told Fox News he had originally believed his parents had arrived after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. "I thought the dates were right, I don't walk around with my parents' passports in my pocket. They're right, I got the dates wrong."
But he insisted he was "the son of exiles."
"When I was born in May, 1971, I was born to two people who could not return to the nation of their birth because it was under communist control," he told Fox News.
Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, told Reuters the biographical reference on the Senate website was likely to be reworded soon. "We're working on that," Conant said.
Rubio wrote in his Politico.com post: "People didn't vote for me because they thought my parents came in 1961, or 1956, or any other year. ... They voted for me because, as the son of immigrants, I know how special America really is."
(Reporting by Tom Brown; editing by Todd Eastham)
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