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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio: Speaking Spanish in 'Spanish-language debate' on Spanish-language network makes sense



Marco Rubio told NBC News' Hallie Jackson on Friday that when he did a debate in English on Univision during his first U.S. Senate race in 2010, the format "didn't work well."

"I had to answer questions in English, and it just didn't work well with the translator. They don't accurately translate my words," the incumbent Republican told Jackson, referring to a debate he had had with his then-opponents, Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek.

So, in his re-election bid this fall, Rubio said he fought for a true Spanish-language debate when Univision invited him and his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, to face off in front of the Spanish-language network's viewers before Election Day.

"It’s a Spanish-language debate on a Spanish-language network. I speak Spanish," said Rubio, who is Cuban-American.

But Murphy -- a Jupiter congressman who isn't fluent in Spanish -- had his own preference for the format. And after accepting Univison's invitation just last week, Murphy's campaign said it couldn't agree to what the network proposed: a genuine Spanish-language debate in Spanish, as Rubio also wanted.

MORE: No Univision debate for Rubio, Murphy

Univision told the Herald/Times on Friday the proposed debate was canceled because Rubio and Murphy couldn't agree on the language.

It's typical for candidates to jockey for whatever advantage they can when negotiating terms of debates.

Murphy wanted the Univision debate in English and then dubbed, although the campaign billed the event it agreed to as a "Spanish-language" debate. Murphy's campaign said statewide debates on Spanish-language networks have never been done in Spanish and argued that Rubio was asking for unprecedented rules.

Rubio told NBC News that Murphy "didn't want to participate with me speaking in Spanish." (Murphy's campaign told the Herald/Times earlier Friday such a claim was "completely inaccurate.")

Rubio also took a dig at Murphy -- who, although not fluent, has spoken some español in a bevy of Spanish-language ads he's launched this month to court Hispanic voters.

"He just did a commercial in Spanish where he was talking Spanish in it, so I guess he speaks Spanish. He should be willing to do it," Rubio said.

[Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2016 10:39am]


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