Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday ripped into former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for claiming that he left the Republican Party because of racism, calling the accusation “absurd.”
“It’s quite embarrassing,” the Republican senator said during an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “When all is said and done, I think the Democrats are going to be embarrassed that Charlie Crist is one of them.”
Crist, who is running for his old job as a Democrat, told Ramos on Tuesday that a “big reason” why he left the GOP was because of the party’s racially driven hostility toward President Obama.
“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” he said. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”
Crist dropped the Republican label in 2010 after he lost to Rubio in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, choosing to run against Rubio in the general election as an independent. Rubio won the contest, and the ex-governor became a Democrat in 2012.
“If in fact, he was concerned about racism within the GOP, why didn’t he say it then?” Rubio asked. “Why didn’t he have the courage to say it then? Why did he stay silent about that for three years thereafter? Only now that he’s running as a Democrat does he make these sorts of [claims].”
Rubio said that his own victory in that Senate race is proof enough that his party is not tainted by racism.
“He is saying that the Republican Party is racist, and so they nominated a Hispanic, a Cuban-American, to the United States Senate,” he said.
Rubio added that Crist, “is a man who is willing to say or do anything, he is willing to be for anything, if it means he can win an election.”
“One of the reasons I ran against him is because I believe he is completely unreliable,” he added.
As for Rubio’s own political future, he’s considered a potential candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. But Rubio’s candidacy could be complicated if his former mentor, ex-Florida gov. Jeb Bush, decides to run himself. The senator wouldn’t address the tension when asked by Ramos.
“I’m a great admirer of Gov. Bush. I served alongside him when I was in the state legislature and he was the governor,” he said. “We’re friends, he did a great job as governor and I think he would be a very strong candidate.”
In the Senate, Rubio is pushing Congress to pass sanctions against individuals associated with the Venezuelan government, which has engaged in street battles with opposition protesters for months. A top State Department official testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the crisis in Venezuela on Thursday morning.
U.S. officials have yet to embrace the idea of sanctions, opting instead to let talks between the government and Venezuelan government run their course. But Rubio said he hopes the Obama administration gets on board with his plan.
“I hope we can convince the White House to pursue those sanctions,” he said. “I think we need to be more involved in the Western Hemisphere. It is our hemisphere. I think that the erosion of democratic order in the hemisphere is deeply troubling.”