Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri) has been identified as the Republican Congressman who told Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-California) to ‘go back to Puerto Rico’ during a debate on the House floor.
According to The Hill, Jason Smith shouted at Cardenas in the midst of a chaotic procedural debate on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. While the Missouri Republican tried to suggest that he was referring to House Democrats’ recent trip to Puerto Rico and that the comment was directed at all Democratic members of the House, Cardenas, a Hispanic man who was born and raised in Los Angeles, disagreed.
“When people blurt things out like that, it certainly sounds like the old saying, ‘go back to where you came from,’ ” Cardenas told The Hill. “Since I was a little boy I’ve heard that blurted at me many times, but it’s sad that anything even remotely close to that would be said to me on the floor of the House.”
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) tried to smooth things over with Rep. Cardenas after the exchange, who allegedly insisted that Jason Smith wasn’t making a racist remark.
“When I asked if he had said it he didn’t say he did — and I’m not accusing him of saying it — but he kept talking and said, they didn’t mean for you to go back to Puerto Rico, what they meant is go back to Puerto Rico this last weekend,” Cardenas said.
Regardless of the reason Jason Smith made his remark, it’s particularly bad timing for House Republicans, who just this week stripped Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of all of his committee assignments in the wake of racist remarks he made saying he didn’t understand why the term “white supremacist” was considered offensive. The House also voted in favor of a resolution condemning King’s comments, though Democrats ultimately decided to not censure him.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.