Did you know President Donald Trump speaks Spanish? No? That’s because he doesn’t, a fact made painfully obvious on Friday when he repeatedly said “Puerto Rico” with what we can only assume is his impression of a Spanish accent.
Trump’s unnerving attempt at speaking Spanish came during a Hispanic Heritage Month event at the White House.
Pres. Trump: “PUerto Rico. We love PUerto Rico. And we also love Puerto Rico." pic.twitter.com/3fbzGvybd4
— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) October 6, 2017
The moment echoes Trump’s celebratory Cinco de Mayo tweet from 2016 in which the then-candidate declared, “I love Hispanics!” while eating a taco bowl from the Trump Tower restaurant.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2016
It wasn’t all mispronunciations on Friday, however. Trump also praised the Hispanic community for their contributions to the United States.
“You teach our children. You lead our churches. You protect our communities and you defend our nation. Among you are leaders in government, faith, and business. Fantastic people in this audience,” Trump said. “I know some of them, and believe me, they’re very tough and they’re very smart. Sometimes they’re too tough. But that’s OK. I have to deal with it. I have to deal with it. Fantastic people.”
The president has had a tumultuous relationship with the Hispanic and Latino communities, starting with his speech announcing his run for president in 2015, when he called Mexicans “rapists.” His campaign platform was largely built on anti-immigrant sentiment, which has continued into his presidency.
Trump’s “Puerto Rico” gaffe on Friday follows a string of missteps regarding the U.S. territory, which suffered widespread devastation late last month after Hurricane Maria hit the island as a category 4 storm. The president traveled to Puerto Rico this week, where he praised officials for the fact that the death toll from the storm was far lower than “a real catastrophe like Katrina.” He later flubbed a photo-op by throwing rolls of paper towels to a gathered crowd.
These missteps, while perhaps funny, punctuate federal relief efforts some say are inadequate, extending unnecessary hardship to the American citizens who call the island territory home. The Trump administration appears to have glossed over Puerto Ricans’ continued struggles by deleting key information, including stats about access to electricity and clean water, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website.