Sen. Rubio denies claims he embellished history

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ | October 24, 2011 | 3:10 AM EDT

MIAMI (AP) — Freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is dismissing allegations he embellished his family's history by claiming his parents were Cuban exiles.

The Florida political leader has always publicly identified as part of the Cuban exile community. His Senate website says his parents came to America following Fidel Castro's 1959 takeover.

But media reports Thursday revealed they'd emigrated to the U.S. in 1956. Rubio's father was a bartender and came for economic reasons. Castro wasn't even in Cuba when they left.

Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party. He's viewed as key to boosting the party's Hispanic outreach, despite holding a hard line on immigration.

Rubio says his parents are exiles because they tried to move back to Cuba in 1961 but decided they didn't want to live under communism.