In the summer of 2019, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump had “joked in a meeting” with staffers about the possibility of trading Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, for Greenland, a territory of Denmark.
But on Wednesday, former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief of staff Miles Taylor alleged that those comments weren’t a joke at all — and that Trump had made racist comments about U.S. citizens living on the island territory.
“He actually said he wanted to see if we could sell Puerto Rico — could we swap Puerto Rico for Greenland because, in his words, Puerto Rico was ‘dirty’ and ‘the people were poor,'” Taylor alleged in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday.
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Taylor said he was disgusted by the comments at the time, adding that, behind closed doors, Trump held a “deep animus” for the people of Puerto Rico. “We don’t talk about our fellow Americans that way,” Taylor said.
“But one time before we went down, he told us not only did he want to purchase Greenland, he said he wanted to sell Puerto Rico, could we swap PR for Greenland, because in his words, Puerto Rico was dirty and the people were poor.” Former DHS official Miles Taylor #VoteTrumpOut
— LGBT Puerto Rico (@lgbtpr) August 19, 2020
When Trump made the comments in 2018, news outlets at the time widely described his words as having been said in jest.
A number of Twitter users from Puerto Rico joked about the idea when it was first reported, with some tweeting out images of Danish translation books, and others using images of products and media from Denmark they would be happy to embrace.
Trump himself tweeted out a photoshopped image of a fake Trump Tower on Greenland, seemingly joining in the humorous takes on the story. But after Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that Greenland was not for sale, calling it an “absurd discussion,” Trump lashed out, canceling a planned trip to the country and describing her comment as “nasty.”
“I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, ‘No, we wouldn’t be interested,'” Trump said.
Several users on social media have expressed anger toward Trump amid these latest allegations. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, with whom Trump has feuded in the past, responded on Twitter by pointing out how this latest revelation fits with Trump’s past record of racist statements and callousness toward Puerto Rico.
Honestly we did not need anyone to tell us what we knew. There are 3,000 + dead that are enough prove that he never cared. He is vicious, discriminatory, has thought more of himself than the truth and did not listen to the experts or the people. Sound familair? @DavidBegnaud https://t.co/blw6HfaXby
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) August 19, 2020
Some Twitter users used this latest chapter in Trump’s relationship with Puerto Rico to call for decolonization of the island, while others said it justified support for Biden in the upcoming election. Still others argued that Trump supporters in Puerto Rico ought to feel ashamed for backing him.
— C. Pearson (@CitizenCee) August 19, 2020
The reason why Trump has been able disparage Puerto Ricans with his disgusting words and his racist policies is the island’s colonial status.
Democrats need to commit to the decolonization of Puerto Rico through a binding referendum process. Expressing outrage is not enough! https://t.co/icYuUwTvbp
(@GiovanniEPagan) August 19, 2020
Yet another reason why we need @JoeBiden in the White House. We're in a battle for the soul of this nation.
— Puerto Rico Democrats (@PR_Dems) August 19, 2020
Esto es para los que apoyan a trump
Exjefe de Gabinete de Seguridad Interna: Trump ha tenido “profunda animosidad” hacia el pueblo de Puerto Rico https://t.co/42DrFQm5aN
— Angel (@AngelMerced68) August 19, 2020
Taylor’s allegations about the president’s comments toward Puerto Rico come as the former DHS official announced this week that he was endorsing Trump’s rival in the 2020 presidential race, Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Taylor said that, while he was a lifelong Republican who disagreed with Biden on several fronts, Trump was “unfocused and undisciplined,” and had used DHS as a means to further his own political ends.
Trump responded to the news about Taylor on Tuesday with a tweet, saying he never knew him.
“A former DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE named Miles Taylor, who I do not know (never heard of him), said he left & is on the open arms Fake News circuit. Said to be a real ‘stiff’. They will take anyone against us!”
Taylor responded later in the day to Trump’s insinuations that his word shouldn’t be trusted, stating that he might have to “tell some stories” to prove he and the president knew each other.