If you follow Marco Rubio or any other prominent Republican on Twitter, you’ve probably seen a story about one of his canvassers being beaten by four men who “told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood,” as the Florida senator tweeted Monday morning. Rubio’s tweet included graphic ambulance photos:
Despite the lack of any police report or local news stories confirming the details, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and others jumped on the story and re-shared it as proof that “tolerant” Democrats aren’t so tolerant after all.
The incident occurred in Hialeah, Florida, a Republican stronghold. As the day progresses, it becomes clear that the story did not unfold as Rubio claimed. First and foremost, the victim has been identified as Christopher Monzon, a white supremacist dubbed the “Cuban Confederate” who took part in the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has a history of violence, and is heavily involved in Miami Republican politics.
According to a police report obtained by the Miami New Times, a man has been arrested in connection with the attack: According to NBC News reporter Marc Caputo, Javier Jesus Lopez, 22, “has a violent past and is out on felony bond.” According to the police report, Lopez allegedly told Monzon, “You can’t pass by here. This is my neighborhood,” he said before slamming him down.
According to the New Times, the report “does not mention a political dispute, nor does it indicate that Lopez targeted Monzon because Monzon is a Republican.” The report also does not state that Monzon was attacked by “four animals,” as Rubio claimed in his dehumanizing tweet, though the police told CBS that they are interviewing “two other possible people of interest.”
It’s certainly unusual for a U.S. senator to tweet out a story before local news or police have said anything about it, and to conveniently leave out the fact that the victim has a history of white supremacist violence.
It almost feels like a desperate move by a politician whose Democratic opponent decimated him in a debate last week. If a known white supremacist was wearing a t-shirt with my name on it while canvassing for my Senate campaign, I’m not sure I’d broadcast that incident in defense of him, hoping that everyone would ignore the minor details about who the man is.