After being roundly criticized for his administration’s delayed response in helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, President Trump finally arrived on the island to survey the damage and meet with Puerto Rican officials. According to The Washington Post, Trump said his administration was doing a “great job” with relief efforts in Puerto Rico: “And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks.”
Just days earlier, Trump shot back at Mayor Yulín Cruz, who said the Trump administration wasn’t doing enough to help Puerto Rico. “Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Although the president painted a picture of rapid recovery, millions of people are still without running water. USA Today reported that getting food, water, or gas can take some Puerto Ricans several hours or even a whole day.
During his roundtable for the press, Trump zeroed in on the death toll and appeared to imply that Hurricane Katrina was a “real catastrophe” because more people died.
Here's Trump comparing the death count in Puerto Rico to the death count in a "real catastrophe like Katrina" pic.twitter.com/lNCz4wYvMn
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) October 3, 2017
Trump: “Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”
After turning to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló to ask “What is your death count as of this moment, 17?” Trump added, “16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands.”
Although the death toll is currently at 16 people, the number is expected to rise. According to Vox, it has remained at 16 because deaths aren’t being officially recorded. Journalist Omaya Sosa Pascual told Vox that the process for declaring deaths is currently broken: “Some of the people who work in the government lost their homes themselves and aren’t at work. So they can’t do death certificates. The dead can’t be documented because of all the logistics and legal aspects of declaring someone dead.”
Trump also made a crack about the amount of money that would be spent on disaster relief.
Trump in Puerto Rico: "I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/ijueXFNAM0
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 3, 2017
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer took to Twitter and asked Trump to stop blaming Puerto Rico for the situation it finds itself in.
Yes we’re spending money in Puerto Rico. To turn the power back on. To give ppl drinking water. And to keep life support machines working.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 3, 2017
And Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) called out Trump for his repeated trips to Mar-A-Lago.
— Adriano Espaillat (@RepEspaillat) October 3, 2017
Later, Trump handed out supplies to Puerto Ricans. Here he is tossing paper towels like he’s shooting basketballs.
— El Nuevo Día (@ElNuevoDia) October 3, 2017
Also, after speaking to a hurricane victim, Trump ended the conversation by saying, “Have a good time.”
Trump to hurricane victim in Puerto Rico: "Have a good time" pic.twitter.com/ri3C8AdG6t
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 3, 2017
Trump’s focus on the death toll, his budget remarks, and the praise he’s given his administration for doing an “A+ job” all point to someone who is both tone deaf and out of touch with the severity of Puerto Rico’s situation. Trump is only in Puerto Rico for one day. On Wednesday, he heads to Las Vegas, where 59 people died on Sunday in the largest mass shooting in modern American history.
Click here for a list of charities and crowdfunding campaigns that are helping people in Puerto Rico.