Two liberal activists accused Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s staff of physically “manhandling” them outside of a Rubio event in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Their only crime, they said, was that they were dressed like robots and following Rubio around the state.
The activists — both with the liberal super-PAC American Bridge — said on Twitter that Rubio staff “pushed and shoved” them to the ground outside of Rubio’s Manchester event. Dressed in crudely-made cardboard robot costumes bearing the words “Marco Roboto,” American Bridge vice president Eddie Vale and communications director Kevin McAllister appeared to be trolling Rubio supporters before the incident occurred, though it’s unclear what exactly led to physical escalation. Another person dressed as a robot, affiliated with another liberal advocacy group called Americans United For Change, was also shoved, Vale said.
Here is partial video of one robot:
In addition to uncertainty surrounding what caused the incident, it’s unclear whether the people who shoved Vale and McAllister were actually paid Rubio staff, or just regular supporters. Pressed to verify his statements on Twitter, Vale acknowledged that some people who shoved him could have been volunteers with the campaign, but maintained that “some were def staff.” Rubio’s press team did not immediately return ThinkProgress’ request for comment.
It’s possible that the situation escalated because of sheer annoyance. The activists were dressed as robots to essentially make fun of Rubio, who repeated a two-line attack against President Obama three times in rapid succession during the last Republican presidential debate. After the debate, Rubio was widely criticized for being “robotic” and overly-rehearsed.
Vale and McAllister seemed to take that criticism and run with it — in their costumes, they’ve appeared outside multiple Rubio events all over New Hampshire since the debate.
— Ben Siegel (@benyc) February 7, 2016
As increased attention has been paid to Rubio in the wake of Saturday’s debate, it’s possible that staff and volunteers are feeling the pressure. Rubio campaign staff were also accused of acting inappropriately on Sunday — but instead of assault, they were accused of racial profiling by two black New York University graduate students and their professor. The Rubio campaign has not responded to requests for comment on those allegations.