Puerto Rico's Largest Newspaper Runs Column Blaming Jews for Hurricane Maria Aftermath

Senator Bernie Sanders has led Puerto Rican relief efforts in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Getty Images

The largest newspaper in Puerto Rico has apologized for running an opinion column that said Jewish people control the U.S. Congress and want to punish the storm-ravaged island for its debt because they care so much about money.

In the Spanish op-ed last week from El Nuevo Día, whose title translates to "What Does 'the Jew' Want With the Colony?," columnist Wilda Rodriguez justified her assertion that Jews run the government by pointing to an alleged Israeli article published in Hebrew 20 years ago that recognized Jewish power in Washington. "For Israelis," she wrote, "recognizing Jewish power over the United States is no offense. It is the victory of their diaspora."

She said the "Jewish itinerary is so loaded with wars and profits that they rarely think about Puerto."

"When it does come to mind, they think: What the hell are we still doing there? How do we get out of this trap?" she said.

The editorial sparked immediate backlash, with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling it "a collection of classic anti-Semitic assertions."

"The column falsely charges that the future of Puerto Rico is in the hands of the Jews who control power and wealth from the centers of power in Washington and Wall Street," the ADL's Latino community relations coordinator, Monica Bauer, wrote in a statement. "[Rodriguez] alleges that Congress will do what the Jews say, since it is the Jews who control Congress and that their itinerary is 'loaded with wars and profits.'"

The newspaper responded to allegations of anti-Semitism by adding a statement to the story apologizing to the Jewish community and others who may have been offended. "We do not promote content that can be promoted as anti-Semitic," it said.

Rodriguez added a statement saying that she regretted that her writing was seen as anti-Semitic and that she "can understand the psychic reaction of some to the mere use of the Jewish word. But the intention is not to provoke offense, but to contribute to public discussion."

On Monday, Rodriguez took to Facebook to further defend her views. She claimed she worked on Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, where there were "an overwhelming number of Jewish surnames."

"That phenomenon of Jews in positions of power has grown in an impressive way since Reagan," she wrote. "What began as an intentional campaign to influence U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel (Israel Lobby) had expanded to all spheres of power in Washington. Newspapers in Tel Aviv received the news of their influence in Washington with pleasure. Many rabbis discussed it in their synagogues."

Nearly 91 percent of Congress identifies as Christian and only 6 percent as Jewish. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, has led efforts to dedicate $146 billion of the federal budget to Puerto Rico recovery efforts. "More than two months after Hurricane Maria, in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, most of the homes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still without electricity. This is beyond belief," Sanders said in a November press conference.

The largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States is Christians United for Israel, which has a large evangelical base and more than 1 million members overall. Opinion polls show the majority of Americans hold favorable views of Israel.

Newsweek made multiple attempts to reach El Nuevo Dia. Wilda Rodriguez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.