The Florida Republican senator hosted a roundtable event with Alex Otaola, who performed in blackface in 2017.
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio recently touted the endorsement of Alex Otaola, a social media "influencer" with a history of racism. He also featured the YouTube personality at an Oct. 14 campaign "Roundtable with Cuban-American Community Leaders."
Despite previously backing a two-term limit for all senators, Rubio is currently seeking a third six-year term. He is facing Democratic Rep. Val Demings.
"Marco Rubio held a roundtable today with leaders of the Cuban-American community at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora where they endorsed his reelection campaign," the campaign noted in a press release about the roundtable.
The release went on to quote "Cuban-American influencer Alex Otaola" as saying, "We need people like Marco Rubio, fearless, frontal and with sharp words against our nation's enemies."
Otaola is the host of a YouTube series called "Hola Ota-Ola" and a political activist who advocates for Republican candidates.
In a November 2017 Facebook Live performance, Otaola donned blackface to satirize Chocolate MC, a Cuban-born reggaeton musician.
As of Thursday, Otaola's official Instagram still included a photo from the video, describing it as "una parodia desde el cariño," or an affectionate parody.
After George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man, was murdered in May 2020 by a white Minneapolis police officer, Black Lives Matter protesters across the world began marching to demand an end to police violence and systemic racism.
Otaola posted an Instagram message the next month containing a black square, a symbol of support for the protests, but included "#alllivesmatter," a phrase often used by conservatives to dismiss the racial justice efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement and to minimize the history of racism in the United States.
According to a Miami Herald report later that month, Otaola said that Floyd's death "was not justified" but made the baseless suggestion that Floyd might have taken part in looting had he been there for the protests of his own death.
A December 2020 commentary on Miami public radio station WLRN asked of Otaola, "Can a racist demagogue be a serious defender of human rights?"
It quoted him as claiming the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrated "the level of communist infiltration in our schools, universities, barrios and low-income families" and called its leaders "delinquents, savages and unscrupulous anti-Americans" who were using the murder of Floyd to justify an attack on American democracy.
Rubio too has attacked the Black Lives Matter movement, likening the mostly peaceful protests to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection and calling its leaders an "extortionist ring."
"The events that we saw this week should sicken every single one of us," Rubio said in a video posted two days after the riot at the Capitol. "Riots should be rejected by everyone, every single time. Now, are the left hypocrites? Absolutely. I remember what they now are calling 'insurrection,' they were justifying just this summer. They called it 'the language of the unheard' when rioters were burning cities."
Neither Otaola nor a spokesperson for Rubio responded immediately to inquiries for this story.
A review of his Instagram reveals that Otaola has repeatedly posted pictures of people of color altered to grossly exaggerate their lips.
It also reveals a June video of Rubio and Otaola laughing and speaking out against censorship of conservatives and an April photo of the two of them together at a GOP dinner.
Rubio also appeared in a December 2020 episode of Otaola's YouTube program.
On Monday, Rubio tweeted out photos of white supremacist Christopher Monzon, claiming that "one of our canvassers wearing my T-shirt and a Desantis hat was brutally attacked by 4 animals who told him Republicans weren't allowed in their neighborhood."
Rubio's campaign has since clarified that Monzon, a paid staffer for the Republican Party of Florida, was canvassing for the party, not his campaign, when he was assaulted.
Local police have contradicted Rubio, telling Miami television station Local 10 that there was "no indication" that the attack was politically motivated.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.