BuzzFeed, your go-to source for lists of animals, snuff videos, and racial superiority propaganda, has posted a fascinating new political story about the persistent personal rumors dogging Sen. Marco Rubio. Well, "about" might not be the right word. The story, by McKay Coppins, is premised on the existence of the rumors, and clearly relies on reporting and interviews during which the rumors were discussed. The only thing missing is the rumors themselves, because, Hey, BuzzFeed doesn't traffic in rumors!
The story, headlined "The Endless Vetting of Marco Rubio," is a classic dual-wavelength broadcast, artfully constructed to communicate one message to an in-the-know readership of political and media types who've discussed the juicy Rubio dirt over beers, and another one entirely to the everyday rubes who come to BuzzFeed for information about politics. To the insiders, it says: We know about these amazing rumors! We looked into them, but didn't get anywhere, but we hope, like you, that something turns up. To the rubes, it says: Hey, how about that Marco Rubio? Keep an eye on him.
But even as the hype surrounding his ascent reaches new heights, one nagging line of inquiry quietly being pursued by pundits, politicos, and journalists from Washington to Miami serves as a persistent, if unspoken, drag on Marcomentum.
The question: What element of his time in Florida politics will come back to haunt him?
Hmmm, yes, what element, exactly? Well, Coppins doesn't quite say. He does say that there's a big 555-page dossier, prepared by Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, that has a lot of unflattering information about Rubio's past. But that dossier is almost a year old, has been freely available on the internet since July 2012, and consists exclusively of repackaged, previously published information about Rubio's voting history and campaign finance scandals. He appears to have survived its publication. As Coppins put it, "it lacks the sort of smoking gun that could end a politician's career." So what else?
Well. Whatever it is, Coppins writes, it has caused some politicos to "speculate that the Senator's pristine political brand will collapse under the weight of national scrutiny." It has sustained a "vague, undying notion that he could be hiding a career-ending secret." It feeds an "unshakable speculation about Rubio's private life and professional past." There is a "drip-drip of juicy new details about his life over the past couple of years [that] has only served to reinforce the theory that there's a game-changer still waiting to be discovered." There are "plenty of tantalizing rumors about Rubio," but "none of them could be confirmed."
We all know what respectable reporters do with unconfirmed rumors: They write blog posts about them! Coppins situates his non-review of Rubio's baggage in the recent political history of Obama hatred, in which right-wing hopefuls continue to await the emergence of Michelle Obama's "Whitey Tape." This is an interesting example, inasmuch as it employs the surfacing of an unconfirmed and maybe-false rumor—that Michelle Obama once ranted in public about the evils of "Whitey," and that an audio or video document of the tape exists—to justify a story that refers to, but does not surface, unconfirmed and maybe-false rumors about Rubio. So as a service to BuzzFeed's readers, we will extend Rubio the same courtesy Coppins extended to Obama, and just lay out what we're talking about. Gawker, too, has been the recipient of juicy anonymous emails about Rubio, and I talked to several reporters and Democratic operatives about them a few months back. Here are the details:
- Rumor Number One: Marco Rubio slept with a Tallahassee lobbyist, got her pregnant, and she had an abortion.
Is this true? I have no idea. But I know that many reporters, both local and national, have attempted to run it down. I spoke to one of those reporters before the 2012 election, and he told me that "all parties" involved denied the story.
- Rumor Number Two: Marco Rubio Has Fathered Two Children By a Woman Other Than His Wife.
Is this true? I have no idea. But I know that many Democratic operatives in Florida have heard this story, and believe it. I've spoken to at least three of them, who said it goes like this: Rubio, who is married to a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, has two children by another, different, former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. In the version of this rumor I heard, it's unclear whether these purported children were born before or after Rubio married his current wife. The children, the rumor goes, live in New York with their mother.
Again, I don't know if any of the above is true. I never stood them up to the point where I felt comfortable floating them. Neither, presumably, did Coppins. They are so explosive and disqualifying for Rubio that it seems difficult to believe they can be both true and still unreported. But the same was true of George W. Bush's drunk-driving arrest (which, though obviously not disqualifying enough to dissuade the Supreme Court from installing him as president, was a massive story hiding in plain sight for almost an entire election cycle) or Mark Sanford's frequent trips to South America. You never know.
Anyway, since we're talking about the rumors dogging Rubio, I thought it might be useful to say what we're all talking about. I emailed Coppins to ask him if those were the same rumors he had decided to report on but not actually report, or if there were others. He didn't respond.
[Image via Getty]