Velazquez Demands FCC Probe of Racist Puerto Rico TV Program
Washington, DC - Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), requesting an investigation into the continued use of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic remarks on a regularly aired Puerto Rican television show. In an episode aired last week on “La Comay,” the program’s titular character directed xenophobic remarks towards Senator Eduardo Bhatia, and his wife Isabel Fernandez, suggesting the Senator was unfit to govern purely based on the couple’s countries of origin.
“If we allow these sorts of remarks to be broadcast, we are enabling the propagation of racist attitudes,” stated Velázquez. “Broadcast stations are publicly licensed and expected to operate in the public interest. Disseminating these vile comments runs afoul of that principle and today I’m calling on the FCC to investigate.”
The show, “La Comay,” is regularly broadcast on Mega TV Puerto Rico on a weekly basis. The main character, a puppet bearing the show’s namesake, has previously espoused blatantly prejudiced remarks regarding numerous individuals. In response to these statements, thousands of Puerto Ricans boycotted the program in 2012 until its previous network, Wapa TV, dropped the program. The show, previously referred to as “Super Exclusivo” returned in 2018 under its current title on Mega TV and has continued this pattern of behavior.
The full text of the letter is below.
A pdf of the letter is available online here.
August 5, 2020
Chairman Ajit Pai
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Chairman Pai:
I am writing to denounce a pattern of xenophobic and racists remarks broadcast on the television program “La Comay,” which airs on Mega TV Puerto Rico (Mega TV) from Monday through Friday at 5:55 p.m. The main character of this show is a puppet commonly known as “La Comay,” and is played by Antulio Santarrosa (also known as Kobbo Santarrosa). Between the years of 2013 and 2018, this show was off the air due to an unprecedented public outcry late in 2012. That year, thousands of Puerto Ricans boycotted the program—then called “Super Exclusivo–and its sponsors in response to scathing homophobic comments made by this character against the victim of a crime. At that time, I joined thousands of Puerto Ricans in denouncing Santarrosa’s homophobic remarks. On January 9, 2013, the show stopped airing on Wapa TV. The program made a comeback in 2018 and has been airing again on Mega TV.
Unfortunately, similar practices continue appearing on the show. Just last week, the program’s character made racist and xenophobic remarks against Senator Eduardo Bhatia and his wife, Isabel Fernandez. Specifically, the character stated:
“And let me tell you. I’m going to be real honest and sincere. I am and will always be Puerto Rican. I consume what my country produces. Now, I love and adore our brothers and sisters from other countries, but Puerto Rico has to be governed by a Puerto Rican man or woman.”
“Unfortunately, Eduardo Bhatia is from El Salvador. He’s Salvadoran and I prefer a Puerto Rican man or woman taking the reins of our country. For there to be a First Lady from Panama in Fortaleza, like Eduardo Bhatia’s wife, I would rather have a Puerto Rican woman instead, or have no First Lady at all in that case.”
“Bhatia’s wife is Panamanian. He’s Salvadoran. Therefore ladies and gentlemen, little by little, [if we let this happen], who’s going to [call the shots] in this country? We consume what we produce domestically. Eduardo Bhatia’s father—he’s practically from Pakistan or India. In other words, there’s blood from over there—Pakistan or India running through Eduardo Bhatia’s veins etcetera.”
These statements are a direct attack to the immigrant community across the island and the United States. Puerto Rico has a vibrant immigrant population, with many hailing from other Latin American countries. This group of immigrants call the island their home and have historically contributed to the economic development of Puerto Rico. For a television character to imply or suggest that Senator Bhatia is not worthy of the highest office on the island simply because of his or his wife’s Central American origins is xenophobic and irresponsible. Differences in political opinion are no excuse for inappropriate or offensive commentary towards individuals based solely on their place of birth. Such actions are not representative of our American values.
Despite the disturbing nature of these comments, immigrants are not the only group targeted by this program. On June 13th, the same character made a racist remark against a candidate to the Senate of Puerto Rico, an attorney by the name of Ana Irma Rivera Lassén. The puppet mocked Ms. Lassén and portrayed her as an uneducated black woman by using a combination of gibberish and slang in incomplete sentences. One journalist noted, “[f]or non-Puerto Ricans, another way to compare this would be if a TV host in the United States decided to use racist stereotypes of Black servants in the South interacting with their white family." After this incident, the Human Rights Campaign asked for the program’s cancellation and La Comay faced staunch criticism for her comments against Ms. Lassén.
Xenophobia, homophobia, and racism must not be tolerated or ignored. The use of such vitriol during a prime-time television show endangers the welfare of the island’s residents. I believe the FCC must ensure that any programs requiring FCC licenses do not unfairly target minorities or any protected classes under the law. Given the egregious nature of the remarks made by La Comay over the past two months, I request that your agency review the practices employed by this television show. Such vile rhetoric must be addressed head on to ensure the welfare of Puerto Rico’s residents and protect the island’s most vulnerable and traditionally marginalized residents.
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress
CC: Raúl Alarcón Jr, Mega TV