On national television Tuesday night, Northwest Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz reaffirmed vulgar statements made by Donald Trump this week when the president called the nation of Haiti and other countries a “shithole.”

“Everywhere you look in Haiti it’s sheet metal and garbage,” Gaetz said on MSNBC Tuesday evening after host Chris Hayes asked him if he agreed with the comments made by President Trump.

In response to Gaetz, Hayes compared statements calling Haiti and other nations a shithole to calling Gaetz’s hometown county in Northwest Florida a shithole.

“If I called ― and you’ll forgive me for using the language of the president ― but if I called Okaloosa County a shithole, you’d understandably be upset with that, right?” Hayes asked.

“Yes; I could also prove you wrong, because I could bring you to Okaloosa County and show you that it’s the home of the most beautiful beaches in America. I don’t know that in Haiti they can make the same claim.”

Gaetz went on an official Congressional Delegation this past summer that made stops in countries in Central America and South America, including Haiti. According to the State Department, the visit was meant to reinforce the strong U.S.-Haiti bilateral relationship and reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening security in the region.

Rep. Gaetz (second from right) briefly visited Haiti in August as part of a Congressional Delegation visit. (Department of State/Special to The Pulse)

Haiti, like Northwest Florida, has been recognized as being home to among the most beautiful, undeveloped beaches in the world, with the Caribbean country receiving accolades from The New York Times, CNN, Conde Naste Traveller, and other global publications.

Unlike Northwest Florida, Haiti has been on the receiving end of many recent catastrophic natural disasters and is still recovering. Within the last decade, several major hurricanes have made landfall on the tiny island nation and, in 2010, a 7.0 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed much of the public and private infrastructure on the island.

In recent years, the government of Haiti has more than doubled the tourism ministry’s budget and has launched several campaigns to attract visitors to explore the country’s many undeveloped beaches and regions. The government’s tourism campaign, in partnership with private partners such as airlines, hoteliers, and cruise lines, is aggressively trying to change the perception. It’s unknown if statements from American politicians could negatively impact these efforts.

Paul Altidor, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, has called the comments by the President and other U.S. politicians “troubling,” stating that they “stigmatize Haiti and Haitians as nothing more than the sum of natural disasters and instability, a country rampant with death and disease. This attitude provokes “compassion fatigue” — or worse yet, disdain.”


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