By Daniel White
March 4, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio came to the defense of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s handling of the Flint water crisis during Thursday’s Republican debate.

When asked a question about an apparent lack of Republican response to Flint, a city in the midst of a crisis over it’s lead-poisoned water supply, Rubio offered Gov. Snyder praise for his response.

“The politicizing of it, I think, is unfair, because I don’t think someone woke up one morning and said “let’s figure out how to poison the water system to hurt someone, but accountability is important,” Rubio said. “I will say I give the Governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened and he’s talked about people being held accountable and the need to change.”

Gov. Snyder has faced criticism over his handling of the issue, but Rubio focussed on calling for a collective response to the water crisis and planning for the future.

“All of us are outraged about what happened and we should work together to solve it,” Rubio said. “There is a proper role for the government to play at the federal level in helping local communities to respond to tragedies of this kind, not just to deal with the people that have been impacted by it but to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Thursday’s debate was held in Detroit—some 70 miles from Flint—in the midst of a large protest outside the Fox Theatre. Demonstrators braved the snow, urging greater protections for the environment, improvements to Flint’s water system, respect for social and racial justice, and better wages for low-wage workers.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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