If you follow Marco Rubio or basically any prominent Republican on Twitter, you probably saw a story the Florida senator tweeted Monday morning about one of his canvassers being beaten by four men who “told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood.” Rubio attached grisly ambulance photos to the tweet:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and others quickly jumped on the story, of course, and re-shared it as proof that “tolerant” Democrats are not so tolerant after all—despite the lack of any police report or local news stories confirming the details.
I immediately smelled a rat, especially considering that Hialeah, Florida—where the incident took place—is a Republican stronghold. As the day goes on, it’s become increasingly clear that the story didn’t happen the way Rubio said it did. First, the victim in question has been identified as Christopher Monzon, a white supremacist nicknamed the “Cuban Confederate” who participated in the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has a history of violence, and is deeply involved in Miami Republican politics.
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A police report obtained by the Miami New Times confirms that a man has been arrested in the attack: 22-year-old Javier Jesus Lopez, who “has a violent past and is out on felony bond,” according to NBC News reporter Marc Caputo. The police report says Lopez allegedly told Monzon, “You can’t pass by here. This is my neighborhood,” before slamming him to the ground. But the report “does not mention a political dispute, nor does it indicate that Lopez targeted Monzon because Monzon is a Republican,” according to the New Times. The report also does not indicate that Monzon was attacked by “four animals,” as Rubio claimed in his dehumanizing tweet, though police told CBS they’re looking to talk to “two other possible people of interest.”
It’s definitely odd for a U.S. senator to tweet out a story before local news or the police have said a word about it, and conveniently leave out the fact that the victim has a history of perpetrating white supremacist violence himself.
It feels almost like the desperate move of a politician whose Democratic opponent wiped the floor with 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 race, I’m not sure I’d broadcast that incident in defense of him, counting on everyone to gloss over the little details about who the man actually is.