Speed Reads

think before you speak

Republican congressman apologizes after yelling 'Go back to Puerto Rico' at Democrats

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) apologized to Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) on Thursday after he yelled "Go back to Puerto Rico!" as Cárdenas waited to speak on the House floor.

Smith had his outburst after Congress had adjourned and lawmakers were arguing over a bill to fund the government through the end of next month. Cárdenas said at first, it wasn't clear who shouted, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) scolded his colleagues, saying, "I would hope that we could refrain from any implications that have any undertones of prejudice or racism or any kind of -ism that would diminish the character and integrity of one of our fellow members." Cárdenas told The Washington Post that hours later, Smith called him and "took responsibility for the comment and sincerely apologized." Cárdenas, the son of Mexican immigrants, accepted.

Joey Brown, Smith's communications director, told the Post that Smith was "speaking to all the Democrats who were down vacationing in Puerto Rico last weekend during the shutdown, not any individual." About 30 House and Senate Democrats visited Puerto Rico to bring attention to the fact that the island is still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria. Cárdenas is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' fundraising arm, Bold PAC, and organized the delegation.