Last week, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) issued a press release attacking the proposed economic stimulus bill in the House. She complained that it would send “hundreds of millions of dollars” to “foreign citizens,” including “residents of Puerto Rico and territories like Guam.” Residents of Guam were declared American citizens in 1900 while Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship in 1917.
Brown-Waite’s spokesman, Charlie Keller, “acknowledged the false characterization” late last week, saying that the congresswoman should have used the word “territorial” instead:
Brown-Waite spokesman Charlie Keller said Thursday the congresswoman knows that they are U.S. citizens, and acknowledged the false characterization.
“The wording foreign was really a way to designate” those who don’t pay federal income taxes, Keller said in an interview. “Territorial would have been a better word.”
Brown-Waite’s comments infuriated the Puerto Rican and Guamanian communities, resulting in the Puerto Rican House of Representatives and lawmakers from Guam publicly calling for a apology from the congresswoman. But she is refusing, calling the “case closed” because she “already issued a clarification.”
In her rebuttal, Brown-Waite fueled the controversy by incorrectly stating that it would be the Puerto Rican government — not its constituents — that would get the $1 billion stimulus package.
However, the stimulus package approved by Congress calls on the Puerto Rico Treasury Department to design a disbursement plan for the island residents, said Eduardo Bhatia, who runs the Washington office of Puerto Rico’s governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila.