In the aftermath of the devastation Hurricane Maria brought Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump has failed to say and do the right thing on multiple occasions. Initially, he ignored the crisis and instead criticized African American NFL players for choosing to kneel during the national anthem. When he finally spoke out about the island five days after the hurricane struck, he blamed Puerto Rico for its woes and focused on debt instead of the lives at risk. And this weekend, he once again tweeted egregious comments about the island. Over a course of a few tweets, he insinuated Puerto Ricans are lazy and badmouthed San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who had just a few days prior begged for help. Given the condescending tone he’s regularly employed while talking about Puerto Rico, it’s not surprising that during his visit on Tuesday, he once again managed to talk down to the island.
Despite facing criticism for providing insufficient aid and help to the island, Trump commended FEMA and the military for its work. At a press conference at the Muñiz Air Force Base, Trump then bragged that the death toll as a result of Hurricane Maria was much lower than that of Hurricane Katrina. “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 and what is your death count? Sixteen people, versus in the thousands,” he said, according to The Atlantic. “You can be very proud. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.”
The death toll has not changed in several days, and will likely surge. But even if the number remained at 16, what is happening in Puerto Rico is a real catastrophe. The entire island lost power and for days, many couldn’t communicate with their family members inside and outside the island. Nearly two weeks later, it’s still difficult for some to find food, water, and diesel, all things essential to survival.
After making his disrespectful comments, Trump headed to a church in Guaynabo, a suburb of San Juan known as one of the island’s wealthiest. While the average household income is $18,626 on the entire island, Guaynabo far surpasses that with an average $42,265 household income. Right off the bat, people questioned him for going to a part of the island that didn’t suffer the brunt of the storm and didn’t truly show how how people continue to suffer.
Then while at the Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, Trump inexplicably threw paper towel rolls into the crowd. Similar to a overzealous T-shirt cannon operator at a sporting event, Trump sent paper towels flying through the air. However, unlike at a basketball game, people didn’t come to see him entertain; they came to seek answers about the future of the island.