Marco Rubio spent the first half of last week in Europe on some sort of mystery tour through Germany and/or France. Details of that trip are remarkably scarce — but the U.S. senator from Florida used the journey as an excuse to skip out on a citizen-organized town-hall meeting in Tampa.
Rubio arrived back in the States by this past Friday morning, just in time to teach his class at Florida International University, to skip another town hall in Miami for no good reason, and to get confronted on camera by numerous protesters. In the video embedded above, he was confronted on camera at his FIU class.
In the clip, protesters can be heard shouting "You don't care about our health care!" at the senator. Then Rubio, in a white shirt and tie, starts debating the ins-and-outs of the health insurance industry with some of the people he represents.
To the demonstrators' credit, they actually managed to get a few concrete statements from Rubio regarding health-care reform.
"I want you to be able to control your health-care spending, and use it to purchase any kind of health insurance you want," Rubio told a protester. "And if you don't have enough money to pay for it on your own, then you get a tax credit."
Weirdly, one of the protesters refers to the Ku Klux Klan — to which Rubio even more strangely replies: "They're almost out of business." That's debatable, especially given the fact that hate-crimes have spiked since President Trump took office, and veiny, white-supremacist hero Steve Bannon now works as Trump's right-hand man.
That confrontation came after Rubio fled from another activist who ambushed him at Jackson Memorial Hospital. In a clip New Times obtained from a local labor organizer (who asked not to be named because he says he's been receiving threats for his activism), Rubio is confronted while walking through Jackson during a morning visit. He's flanked by a handful of aides, and the grainy, found-footage quality works to frame Rubio as the political Bigfoot he really is.
"Senator, I thought you were in Europe?" the protester asks. "I saw all these 'Missing Child' posters all over town." (The protester was referring to signs that popped up all over Tampa last week.) "I'm glad you're OK, but are you going to host a town hall? There's a constituent town hall today."
Rubio, however, continues walking.
"Good to see you, man," he offers meekly. He and his aides then begin to descend an escalator.
But the protester continues: "We need to hear from you, Senator. We need to hear from you. We're constituents. Are you going to host a town hall? Senator, I thought you were in Europe. Are you going to host a town hall, Senator?"
The answer, it seems, is no. But Rubio — who in 2017 has voted to approve each of Donald Trump's cabinet picks, refused to take a hard stance against the president's Muslim-travel ban and has supported repealing and/or replacing Obamacare — owes his constituents a face-to-face conversation.
It makes sense that he's a bit skittish: His compatriots in other states have had real issues recently. Consider Arkansas senator (and guy who looks like the lone men's rights activist in your college humanities class) Tom Cotton, who was eviscerated in a town-hall meeting last night by a woman whose husband is dying and needs health insurance.
So it appears Rubio is avoiding hosting a meeting, but that hasn't stopped protesters from finding him.
Hours later, hundreds of his constituents gathered in South Miami for a citizens town hall — but Rubio didn't show. The planners put an empty suit onstage in his place.