The Puerto Rico Status Act, HR 8393, was a proposed legislative act that would provide for the status of Puerto Rico to be resolved through a political process between the government of Puerto Rico and the United States government. The act would allow Puerto Rico to choose from a set of options including statehood, independence, or free association—and would require the US government to respect and implement the outcome of the political process. For years, different acts have been introduced in various forms in the US Congress but have not been enacted into law.
With HR 8393 passing in the US House of Representatives, headlines from national media outlets misnamed this act, referring to it as the Puerto Rico Statehood Act or as a Puerto Rico independence bill when it was neither. Major publications, including the New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC, have incorrectly referred to this bill as the Puerto Rico statehood bill, neglecting to recognize the history and significance of this landmark legislation.
Not only that, but media outlets have described the act as a measure to grant statehood or independence to Puerto Rico. However, the bill provides a mechanism for residents of the US territory to choose between three status options: statehood, independence, or free association. Headlines labeling the bill as only providing one of these options misrepresents the facts behind the bill while misleading people into having an incorrect perception of the bill.
It is not uncommon for the media to incorrectly name a piece of legislation, and this can happen due to various reasons such as limited understanding, misinformation, or can be due to a mistake. For many, it stands as a reminder of how national outlets often underreport what happens in the territories, and when they do report on the territories’ issues, they often get the basic facts wrong.
Inaccurate reporting can have serious consequences, as it can spread misinformation and cause confusion among the public. The media’s mischaracterization of the Puerto Rico Status Act is an example of this.