Puerto Rico Governor Threatens to Withhold Testimony After Twitter Jab

(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello threatened to withhold testimony from a U.S. House committee later this month if lawmakers don’t apologize for a snide remark on Twitter.

At a press conference Friday in San Juan, Rossello said that the tweet in question -- "Call your office, @ricardorossello" -- was disrespectful toward him and the people of Puerto Rico. It seemed to suggest he was hard to reach at a critical time for the U.S. territory, but he said a member of his team had been in contact with the committee throughout the week.

The one-liner accompanied a copy of a formal invitation to testify on July 25. The committee, which has been keeping tabs on the island as it goes through bankruptcy, wants him to travel to Washington to comment on the apparent disarray at the government-run power utility, known as Prepa, which is a key part of the fiscal crisis.

"What the House Committee on Natural Resources did yesterday showed a major lack of respect for me and the people of Puerto Rico," Rossello said. "If they’re going to joke around without seriousness, they can count us out."

He went on to demand an explicit apology from the committee and Chairman Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, as a precondition to coming to Washington to testify. He said if a rogue aide tweeted the comment independently, the person should be fired. He also said the incident was evidence of Puerto Rico’s inferior standing -- what he’s sometimes referred to as its second-class citizenship -- in Washington, because it "never would have happened to the governor of Florida, Texas or New York."

The Twitter jab came at a sensitive time for the island and Rossello’s administration. Last week, the power utility, which is also bankrupt, saw one chief executive officer resign, his replacement withdraw and five board members quit, citing interference from "petty political interests." Then this week, Rossello faced questions about why, in the middle of a fiscal and economic crisis, his government ordered a $245,000 bulletproof Chevrolet Suburban to shuttle him around.

The committee subsequently deleted the controversial tweet, citing a request from the governor. But the governor said it wasn’t totally true that he asked for its removal, without explaining in detail.

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