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Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin October 11, 2016

Rubio mischaracterizes his own position on abortions for pregnant women with Zika

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio misrepresented his stance on abortion for pregnant women with Zika in a new Spanish-language campaign ad trying to discredit his Democratic challenger.

In the ad, released Oct. 4, 2016, a speaker says U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy "lies about Marco Rubio, when Marco has been there for us."

The screen lifts an image from a prior Murphy campaign ad showing a woman standing on a beach with the words, "Marco Rubio: 'No abortions for Zika-infected women.' " It then shows Murphy with a stamped "FALSE."

Murphy and groups that support abortion rights have repeatedly attacked Rubio for saying he didn’t believe in allowing abortions for pregnant women with the Zika virus, which has been linked to microcephaly in newborns.

And the reason they’ve attacked him is because that’s what Rubio said.

On the record

In an Aug. 8, 2016, story in Politico, Rubio told reporter Marc Caputo he did not believe infected women had a right to an abortion, even if they suspected their child might be born with the birth defects associated with microcephaly. The quotation in the commercial refers to the story's headline.

"I understand a lot of people disagree with my view — but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws," Rubio said. "And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one. But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life."

The comments came as Congress struggled over funding emergency relief for the disease, which has spread in Florida and nationwide over the summer. Politico’s story was widely cited by other outlets afterward. Murphy and Rubio have batted attacks on Zika funding back and forth during the Senate campaign.

Murphy has attacked Rubio’s stance on potential abortions in statements and a campaign ad. But this is the first time Rubio has said the Jupiter Democrat is misrepresenting him.

There hasn’t been an English-language counterpart repeating Rubio’s claim. His campaign did release an ad in September accusing Murphy of not telling the truth, but that ad omitted the Zika claim.

Featured Fact-check

Rubio’s campaign did not respond when we asked them why they said Murphy was lying about the subject. Spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas did not specify to the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau, either, only telling reporter Kristen Clark that Murphy has "repeatedly distorted Marco's record."

Just to be sure Rubio wasn’t misquoted, we double-checked with Politico’s Caputo, who said he had ensured Rubio knew what he was going to write about the senator’s opinion. He said Rubio did not object. Caputo also noted the campaign had not disputed the story after it published.

"They never said it was false," Caputo told PolitiFact Florida. "They never expressed any doubt whatsoever."   

Murphy’s campaign stood by their characterization of Rubio’s position.

"Either Rubio is silently flip-flopping on his pro-life stance and forgot to let voters know, or he is blatantly lying in this ad," Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement.

Our ruling

Rubio said Murphy wrongly conveyed Rubio's stance on abortion for women infected by Zika.

In a Spanish-language ad, Rubio disputed the notion that he does not believe in allowing pregnant women to get an abortion if they suspect their baby may suffer from Zika-related birth defects. Rubio confirmed that stance in an August story in Politico, which Murphy has subsequently cited.

Unless Rubio has changed his position, which he hasn’t stated publicly, the ad is wrong about Murphy misrepresenting Rubio’s stance.

We rate the statement False.

Editor's note, Oct. 17, 2016: This story has been updated to clarify the quotation.

Our Sources

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, "Me Conoce," Oct. 4, 2016

Politico, "Rubio: No abortions for Zika-infected women," Aug. 6, 2016

Murphy for Florida, "Patrick Murphy condemns Marco Rubio’s comments on Zika and abortion," Aug. 7, 2016

Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog, "Pro-choice group goes after Rubio over Zika, abortion rights," Sept. 6, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "NARAL misleads in attack on Marco Rubio about Zika funding," Sept. 8, 2016

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, "Truth," Sept. 13, 2016

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, "Reckless," Sept. 20, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "Rubio would take away right to abortions for rape or incest victims, Murphy says," Sept. 23, 2016

Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog, "Marco Rubio accuses Patrick Murphy of 'lying' using example that's actually true," Oct. 10, 2016

Interview with Marc Caputo, Politico reporter, Oct. 11, 2016

Interview with Peter True, Murphy spokesman, Oct. 11, 2016

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Rubio mischaracterizes his own position on abortions for pregnant women with Zika

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