- Protestors in Puerto Rico have been demonstrating for the last three days calling for Governor Ricardo Rosselló to step down.
- The demonstrations come after 900 pages of leaked private messages showed the governor and other officials using sexist and homophobic slurs against political opponents, women, and others.
- Many of Rosselló’s political allies have withdrawn their support and two government officials involved in the chat resigned this weekend, but the governor has said he will not step down.
- The chats were first leaked just one day after six government officials were arrested and charged with funneling $15.5 million worth of federal contracts to politically connected consultants.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Puerto Rico on Monday in the third consecutive day of protests calling for Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.
The protests took a turn after demonstrators gathered near the governor’s mansion, and police fired tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd. The island’s police commissioner later told reporters that protesters had thrown rocks, bottles, and tear gas canisters at the officers.
Demonstrators are calling for Rosselló to step down after leaked messages from a group chat on Telegram showed the governor and 11 men in his inner circle repeatedly using sexist and homophobic slurs to insult political opponents, women, and others.
The excerpts from the messages were first leaked to the media by an anonymous source on Thursday. Then on Saturday, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of messages from that group chat.
In those chats, Rosselló himself reportedly used sexist slurs to describe the former New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and used profanities when talking about the federal oversight group working Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
Rosselló and others joked about shooting Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan. They also made homophobic comments about Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin, and talked about manipulating public opinion and discrediting journalists and other opponents of the governor.
All of the individuals involved in the scandal, which has been dubbed “Chatgate” and “Rickyleaks,” were either current or former administration officials.
Notably, that included Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín, Interior Secretary Ricardo Llerandi, Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira, and Cheif Financial Officer Christian Sobrino.
In addition to the protests, Rosselló has also seen significant political backlash.
Many of the governor’s political allies have withdrawn their support for him. Puerto Rico’s Senate president and House majority leader said they lost faith in Rosselló. Both those leaders were mocked in the messages even though they are members of the same political party.
Representative Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member in the U.S. Congress, said that Rosselló should not run for re-election in 2020, and that he should “immediately reflect on his role as governor.”
Other political figures and members of the island’s House and Senate have also come out against the governor. Prominent Puerto Rican celebrities like Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and singer Ricky Martin have also voiced support for the protests and condemned Rosselló.
And the bigger picture is this: the Hamilton falsehoods in these documents are a minor subplot in a far larger, very disturbing portrait of how this Administration operates. Send tweet.— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) July 15, 2019
Over the weekend, Secretary of State Marín Puerto and Cheif Financial Officer Sobrino resigned. Rosselló, however, is refusing to step down.
After the messages were leaked, Rosselló released a statement where he apologized for the comments, and said he had been under a lot of pressure and working long hours, adding that the messages were just him releasing tension.
He said he would fire the members of his administration who were in the chat, though he also said he would keep the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Public Affairs- meaning the two highest-ranking officials in the chat that did not resign would still be in office.
Rosselló also said in the statement that he will announce a government reorganization and anti-corruption measures in the next few days.
“This is a very painful situation for me, as governor, as a human being and as a Puerto Rican,” he added. “But I recognise there is no other way out and there is no worthwhile forgiveness on my part that does not include corrections and clear signs of intent to change.”
During a radio interview Monday, Rosselló insisted that it is in Puerto Rico’s best interest for him to stay in office. “I have to lift myself up. And I have to move forward to do what’s best for Puerto Rico,” he said.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Part of the reason these messages are such a big deal and have created such a big response is that for many Puerto Ricans, this is the result of a lot of built-up frustration with a governor who ran as an anti-corruption and pro-transparency candidate.
The first leak to the media came just one day after federal authorities revealed a massive corruption investigation into high levels of the island’s government when they arrested six people and filed criminal charges against them for illegally directing nearly $15.5 million in federal contracts to politically connected consultants.
Those arrested included Rosselló’s former education secretary and the former executive director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration. After that scandal, there were already calls for Rosselló to step down.
Both of these incidents only add to the frustrations over how Rosselló handled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which killed upwards of 4,645, according to a new Havard study.
Puerto Ricans are also upset about Rosselló’s controversial education policies, as well as the country’s nearly 12-year-long economic recession that many feel he has done little to fix.
On Monday afternoon, a lawmaker introduced legislation to bring impeachment charges against Rosselló.
However, leaders in Puerto Rico’s House and Senate, both of which are controlled by the governor’s party, said that they will give him more time to think about his future before starting impeachment proceedings.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (Al Jazeera) (The Los Angeles Times)
Intense White House Meeting Prompts “Meltdown” Accusations
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting with President Trump about Syria on Wednesday, with Pelosi later saying Trump had a “meltdown.”
- Trump hit back by tweeting a picture of Pelosi at the meeting, saying she was the one who had a meltdown.
- The post backfired when the image went viral and Pelosi made it her cover photo.
- Both liberals and conservatives applauded her and mocked Trump for sharing a picture of Pelosi where she looked powerful, while some argued that she disrespected the president.
Democrats Walk Out
President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threw “meltdown” accusations at one another after Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting with the President Wednesday.
Pelosi along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-NY) left in the middle of a meeting at the White House about Turkey and Syria after things got heated with the president.
In a press conference at the White House, Pelosi said she believed Trump was upset about a resolution the House had passed earlier that day, formally condemning Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Northern Syria.
She noted that the resolution had massive bipartisan support and passed with 354 votes in favor and 60 against.
“I think that vote – the size of the vote, more than 2-1 of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did – probably got to the president. Because he was shaken up by it,” the speaker said. “And that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.”
“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” she added later.
Schumer chimed in as well, telling reporters that Trump was “insulting, particularly to the speaker.”
“She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician,” he continued. “He said that there are communists involved and you guys might like that. I mean, this was not a dialogue, it was sort of a diatribe. A nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts.”
Pelosi later said she thought Trump called her a “third-grade politician.”
Hoyer also spoke to the way the president acted.
“We were offended deeply by his treatment of the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” he said, adding that there were “very offensive accusations being made by the President of the United States.”
“I have served with six Presidents. I have been in many, many, many meetings like this. Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a co-equal branch of the government of the United States,” he continued.
Pelosi addressed the situation again later while speaking at the Capitol.
“I think now we have to pray for his health, because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president,” she said.
In a tweet, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump had been “measured & decisive.”
She also accused Pelosi of having “no intention of participating” in the meeting, adding, “Dem ‘leadership’ chose to storm out & whine to cameras, everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country.”
Trump himself responded, tweeting a picture of Pelosi at the meeting with the caption, “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!”
If Trump’s plan was to make it look like Pelosi was the one having a meltdown, it seems like that plan largely backfired. Soon after he posted that picture, Pelosi made it her Twitter cover photo.
“Thanks for the new cover photo @realDonaldTrump!” her deputy chief of staff tweeted, sharing a screenshot of her profile.
After that, Trump appeared to try to double down in another tweet.
“Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country,” the president wrote. “She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”
Response on Twitter
Trump’s later comment did not seem to add too much to the conversation, because, by that point, the photo had already gone viral, with #PelosiOwnsTrump, #SpeakerPelosi, and #PelosiMeltdown trending on Twitter.
A lot of Democrats and prominent liberal voices responded by applauding Pelosi, and saying Trump had inadvertently shown a picture where she came off very strong.
“Only Trump would tweet this perfect picture of his weakness & humiliation,” MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and 2020 candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also praised the speaker.
Notably, a number of conservative voices also chimed in to commend Pelosi.
“What is this thing everywhere where tough women who don’t put up with shit are ‘unhinged’?! Nancy looks like a bad bitch in control of a room entirely filled with men!” wrote conservative commentator Meghan McCain.
Other conservatives like Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas and conservative commentator and analyst Bill Kristol also appeared to express support for Pelosi.
However, plenty of others defended Trump.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Newsweek) (The Washington Post)
Internet Slams Bill O’Reilly for Doubting Story of Mom With 4 Jobs
- During Tuesday’s Democratic Debate, Beto O’Rourke said he had met a woman in Las Vegas who works four jobs and is raising a child with disabilities.
- Disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was live-tweeting the debate and said he did not believe this story.
- People on the internet were quick to criticize O’Reilly for appearing out of touch with society.
- O’Rourke also responded himself, showing a picture of him with the woman and her daughter to prove he did not make the anecdote up.
O’Reilly Live-tweets Debate
Disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is facing backlash after accusing Beto O’Rourke of lying during the presidential debate on Tuesday.
During the debate, the former Texas representative was asked about wealth taxes as a solution to wealth inequality. In his response, he told a story.
“I think of a woman that I met in Las Vegas, Nevada. She’s working four jobs, raising her child with disabilities, and any American with disabilities knows just how hard it is to make it and get by in this country already,” O’Rourke said.
“Some of those jobs working for some of these corporations, she wants to know how we are going to help her,” he added, “how we’re going to make sure that her child has the care that she needs, that we strengthen protections for those with disabilities, that she just has to work one job because it pays a living wage.”
This story caught O’Reilly’s attention. The news personality, who was let go from Fox News in 2017 after reports showed had settled multiple sexual harassment claims at the company, including one for $32 million, said he did not believe the anecdote.
Twitter Responds to O’Reilly
O’Reilly’s tweet got a lot of backlash from those who thought it sounded out of touch. He ended up trending on Twitter as a result. Many brought up his settlements when responding to the message.
O’Rourke’s Team Responds:
O’Rourke’s team also responded to O’Reilly. The campaign’s Digital Director, Rob Flaherty, shared a photo of O’Rourke with the woman in the story.
“I was there. Her name was Gina. Her daughter is named Summer,” he wrote. Here’s their picture. Asshole.”
O’Rourke shared the same photo himself.
“The problem with our economy is she has to live in her car—while a disgraced TV host like you makes millions,” the candidate said.
O’Reilly continued to live-tweet the rest of the debate. He also tweeted again about it on Wednesday morning. He has not yet acknowledged his tweet and the controversy it stirred.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Hill) (Huffington Post)
#DeleteFacebook Trends After Reports of Zuckerberg Meetings With Conservatives
- #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter after Politico reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with prominent conservatives like Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Ben Shapiro.
- Facebook has recently received backlash from the left for allegedly appeasing the Trump administration, especially after the company announced a few weeks ago that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, including hate speech and false information.
- 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren responded to the new rule by running her own false ads saying Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in the 2020 election.
#DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter Monday after Politico reported that multiple sources confirmed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with conservative pundits, journalists, and at least one lawmaker.
According to a source, the conversations at those dinners centered around “free expression, unfair treatment of conservatives, the appeals process for real or perceived unfair treatment, fact checking, partnerships, and privacy.”
A person familiar with the gatherings told Politico some of the people who attended the dinners included conservatives who have been critical of Facebook in the past, like Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt.
The list also included conservative journalists like Townhall editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent and Fox News contributor Byron York, as well as conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, among other prominent conservative voices.
A spokesperson for Graham confirmed to Politico that he had spoken with Zuckerberg, but all the others either refused to comment or did not respond.
According to Politico, the gatherings started back in July and were all held at one of Zuckerberg’s homes in California as part of “Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged ‘bias’ against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies.”
#DeleteFacebook Trends on Twitter
A number of people took to Twitter to respond to the report.
Some condemned Facebook, like actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who wrote, “I stopped actively posting on @Facebook in 2016 after it was revealed that it helped elect the orange fecal smear. Now #DeleteFacebook seems like the best course of action.”
Others posted screenshots of themselves deleting Facebook.
“Zuckerburg has allowed lies to spread on his platform and it was the last straw for me,” one user wrote. “His greed is clear so I have no need for his service.”
On the other side, some criticized the trending hashtag as hypocritical and intolerant.
“The Left is pushing the hashtag #DeleteFacebook, because Mark Zuckerberg had meetings with conservative politicians, and commentators… in an effort to make the platform less biased,” co-founder of Students for Trump Ryan Fournier wrote. “The Left give the most lip service on tolerance, yet they turn out to be the most intolerant.”
That sentiment was also echoed by conservative commentator Graham Allen.
Zuckerberg himself respond in a Facebook post.
“To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time,” he wrote. “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do!”
Facebook’s alleged efforts to work with conservatives come as the company faces mounting criticism from the Trump administration and others on the right who say Facebook is biased against conservatives.
After the 2016 election, Facebook changed its policies to try and limit the spread of false information and foreign-bought ads.
But conservatives have pushed Facebook to minimize and correct bias within those policies after a report in 2016 alleged that Facebook employees may have suppressed stories from right-leaning publications in the “Trending Topics” section.
Part of those efforts included Facebook launching a yearlong “conservative bias audit” in 2018, which was led by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and a team from his law firm. That effort resulted in Facebook changing some advertising policies.
Other conservatives have also criticized Facebook for how it defines hate speech. President Trump himself said back in June that the U.S. should sue Facebook and Google because of bias against conservatives.
However, many have pointed out, a lot of claims that Facebook censors conservatives have been largely unsubstantiated, with those who accuse Facebook of liberal bias providing little evidence.
In fact, just this past May, conservative publications like Fox, Breitbart, and Shapiro’s Daily Wire were some of the top publishers on Facebook, according to data from Newswhip.
Those factors have pushed people on the left to condemn Facebook and Zuckerberg for caving to appease the Trump administration.
“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” an anonymous cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley told Politico.
“So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”
This idea that Facebook and Zuckerberg are trying to cater to Trump and his administration is not new.
Facebook sparked controversy in May after the company refused to remove a video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) which had been slowed down to make her appear drunk or otherwise impaired.
Several Democrats responded to the incident in a letter to Facebook in June, where they asked Facebook what they were doing to address “the spreading of political disinformation by real accounts.”
“We are concerned that there may be a potential conflict of interest between Facebook’s bottom line and immediately addressing political disinformation on your platform,” they added.
Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy responded in another letter three weeks.
There, he said Facebook was working to reduce misinformation by “removing fake accounts, disrupting the financial incentives behind propagating false and misleading information,” and letting users know “when they are reading or sharing information (excluding satire and opinion) that has been disputed or debunked.”
“Leading up to 2020 we know that combating misinformation is one of the most important things we can do,” he added later.
Just a few weeks ago, Facebook again came under fire when it announced that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, and that it will not remove or label posts by politicians that violate community guidelines, even if it contains fake information or hate speech.
That policy change was met with a lot of outrage, but some people have been pretty creative with it.
Last week, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ran an ad on Facebook falsely claiming that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in 2020.
“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’” the ad said. “Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”
Warren also took to Twitter to address the ads and go after Facebook.
“Facebook holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate. They’ve decided to let political figures lie to you—even about Facebook itself—while their executives and their investors get even richer off the ads containing these lies,” she wrote in one tweet.
“Once again, we’re seeing Facebook throw its hands up to battling misinformation in the political discourse, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit,” she continued in another post.
Warren also condemned Facebook for airing a Trump campaign ad NBC and CNN refused to run because it made false statements about former Vice President Joe Biden.
In a rare occurrence, Facebook responded to Warren on Twitter, saying that they also ran pro-impeachment and anti-impeachment ads that aired nationally.
“FCC doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech. We agree it’s better to let voters—not companies—decide,” it added.