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Puerto Rico adviser under fire for Obama 'banana' tweet

Thursday, August 02, 2012    

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — An adviser to Puerto Rico's most powerful female lawmaker faced calls to resign yesterday after she sent a tweet to President Barack Obama urging him to buy the first lady a double-banana sundae and take her home to Kenya.

Heidi Wys sent the tweet last week shortly after Obama tweeted that Michelle Obama's birthday was coming up.

"Who cares?" Wys wrote in response. "Take her to Burger King, buy her a sundae with double banana, take her to your homeland, Kenya!"

Wys is the main adviser to House of Representatives President Jenniffer Gonzalez and has earned $630,000 since 2008 for her services as an administrative consultant.

Several legislators are demanding that Wys step down or that Gonzalez ask for her resignation.

"How is it that Puerto Rico 'does it better' if the government pays an employee who is discriminating against the president of the United States?" said Senator Juan Eugenio Hernandez, alluding to Puerto Rico's tourism slogan.

"It is a racist comment from a person who must have great hatred within," he said. "This is placing the name of Puerto Ricans across the world in a very precarious situation."

Overall, Obama is very popular in Puerto Rico, where he traveled to last year in a rare visit by a U.S. president. Residents in the U.S. territory cannot participate in presidential elections, and they are represented by a non-voting resident commissioner.

Gonzalez's spokeswoman, Marieli Padro, said that neither Wys nor Gonzalez were available for interviews. Padro declined to say whether Wys would keep her position.

Gonzalez sought to distance herself from Wys in a statement, saying it is impossible for her to monitor the social media accounts of all those who work for the House of Representatives.

"The expressions disseminated are not acceptable, do not represent my sentiments and are the exclusive responsibility of those who wrote them," Gonzalez said. She also urged all employees to be more cognizant of what they write and to respect the rights of others.

It is not the first time that Wys has sent tweets about Obama.

In response to a July 30 tweet by a Puerto Rico online newspaper, Wys urged reporters to follow an investigation to probe the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate.

Wys, who is white, also said in another tweet that she is not racist and that her favorite nieces are black, but added that she does not support Obama.

"I fight Obama with all the strength in my heart and passion as a descendant of Germans!!" she wrote on July 30.

Wys is a member of Puerto Rico's New Progressive Party, which supports statehood, but she said she does not identify herself as a Democrat or Republican.

Rafael Cox Alomar, who is seeking to become the island's next resident commissioner, said he has sent Obama a letter notifying him about the situation.

"Her conduct is unacceptable," Cox said. "No one should underestimate the grave affront that a racial attack represents, using political differences as an excuse."

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