Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is finding out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the wrath of the orcosphere.
With the release of the “Gang of 8“‘s bipartisan immigration bill today, conservative opponents of reform now have a juicy 844-page target to attack instead of just a set of talking points. Mindful of the risk, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is responding rapidly to rumors and innuendo on the right in the hopes he can shut them down before they spread.
First on the list: the “Marco Phone.” Conservative bloggers immediately seized on portions of the bill funding expanded cell phone access along the border as evidence Rubio was supplying free phones to undocumented immigrants. Some commentators connected it to the “Obama phone,” a popular meme on the right last year about a program that provides discounts on phone service to the poor. Despite the moniker, it predated the current administration by decades and rose to prominence last year mostly due to a viral video of a female black Obama supporter talking about the program.
Rubio himself was confronted with the claim on Wednesday in an interview with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, who quoted from a blog post that read “Move over Obama phone, this is the amnesty phone.”
“That’s false,” Rubio said. “That’s not for the illegal immigrants. That’s for U.S. citizens and residents who live in the border region so that they can have access to calls. One of their complaints – that’s actually part of the Kyl border bill that we adopted. And what it does is it provides communication equipment to people who are living in the border region so they can report illegal crossings because many of them either don’t have phone service or don’t have cell phone service and they have no way of calling.”
There’s some irony to Rubio’s predicament. Conservative commentators derived a multitude of conspiracy theories from misreadings of health care reform bills in 2009 and 2010. The most prominent and ugly claim was that it would create “death panels” that could fatally withdraw care from the elderly and disabled, an outrageously false charge that many national Republicans encouraged, either tacitly or explicitly. Rubio, who became a national star in tea party circles around the same time, is surely well aware just how powerful a rumor can be once it spreads among the conservative base.
Gee, imagine that. Who could have known?