Patrick Murphy used his first day as the Democrats’ official Senate candidate in Florida to accuse Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of ignoring a plea for help from the family of a wounded veteran and is now having that line of attack rebuked by both Rubio and Florida’s Senior Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Murphy brought out the father of a wounded U.S. Army veteran during a Wednesday campaign event who said that Rubio’s Senate office took months to respond after the father, Tim Riney, reached out for help. Riney also said during the event that he reached out to Nelson’s Senate office and never heard back.
Murphy turned Riney’s claims during the event against Rubio.
"It took Marco Rubio’s office seven months to respond to Mr. Riney," Murphy said. "Seven months to respond to the father of a Florida veteran."
Both senators say Murphy’s attack was false.
A spokesman for Nelson, a leading Senate Democrat who has held the office since 2001, told Politico that the office reached out to the military immediately after being contacted by Riney and that the response it received from the Army was forwarded to Riney’s son, who is also named Timothy Riney.
A spokesman for Rubio’s Senate office said that it "responded to Mr. Riney’s request in two business days" and that it was "in frequent contact with Mr. Riney, the Army, and the Senate Armed Services Committee" for months following the request. The spokesman also said that Riney indicated to Rubio’s office in October that he was no longer seeking assistance from it, but that the office is still committed to help in any way possible.
Riney was paralyzed during a training exercise on Feb. 6, 2015, and Rubio’s office says it began to work on his behalf on Feb. 26. It continued to work on the case over the next few months until later that year when Mr. Riney requested they stop.
"When we last communicated with Mr. Riney in October 2015, he indicated that no further action was needed from our office at the time," the spokesman said. "We remain committed to working with him to ensure his son receives the care he deserves."
Riney said during the Murphy campaign event that once Rubio’s office responded to him months after his request, it was with a "form letter," and that was all he received.
A review of the Timothy Riney Foundation website, however, shows that Rubio penned a handwritten note to Riney pledging to "fight" for him.
"We are so grateful for your service," Rubio wrote. "You are in our prayers. And we will continue to fight for you."
The elder Riney was certainly aware of the note that Rubio penned to his son. Just over a year ago on Aug. 13, 2015, Riney shared the Rubio note on his son’s Facebook page.
Rubio’s office says the letter to Riney was sent in June 2015 and that the office was in contact with Riney’s father numerous times throughout that summer. It also says that Riney’s father asked the office to stop taking action with the Army due to concerns that the Senate activity could delay his son’s discharge.
The Rubio campaign said Murphy "should be ashamed" for the attack, which is based on an "outright lie."
"Patrick Murphy’s statements today were an outright lie and he should be ashamed for trying to score cheap political points off a family’s pain and suffering," said campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas.
"Once again Murphy showed he will say or do anything for political gain," Perez-Cubas said.
The Murphy campaign did not respond to a Free Beacon inquiry into whether it was standing by its attack given the push back from both Nelson and Rubio.