San Juan Mayor: Trump’s Remarks Were ‘Insulting,’ ‘Minimized Our Suffering’

President Donald Trump shakes hands with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz during a briefing on hurricane recovery efforts with first responders at Luis Muniz Air National Guard Base, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital city expressed her continued frustrations with President Donald Trump Tuesday, saying that Trump’s comments during his visit were “insulting” to the people of Puerto Rico and calling him the “miscommunicator-in-chief.”

“He was insulting to the people of Puerto Rico,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said, appearing on MSNBC.  “He said something like, ‘Puerto Rico, you really have taken our budget out of whack because of all the money we’ve thrown here.’ He kind of minimized our suffering here by saying that Katrina was a real disaster, sort of implying that this was not a real disaster, because not many people have died here. Well, you know what? They’re dying.”

Her comments referred to remarks Trump made during a meeting with local and federal officials Tuesday, when he claimed Puerto Rico had thrown the U.S. budget “out of whack” and compared the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria to Hurricane Katrina, which he called “a real catastrophe.”

She also took particular issue with the “terrible” and “abominable” images of Trump throwing rolls of paper towels into a crowd of people during the visit.

“Him throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people, it’s really — it does not embody the spirit of the American nation, you know,” she said. “That is not the land of the free and the home of the brave that the beacon of democracy that people have learned to look up to, you know, across the world.”

During the meeting with officials, Trump thanked nearly every other Puerto Rican leader and federal administrator for the work they’d done to aide Puerto Rico. He did not mention Cruz, a sleight that came across as pointed after a week of tension between the two leaders.

Last week, Cruz criticized the federal response in Puerto Rico and Trump lashed out on Twitter by questioning Cruz’s leadership.

While Cruz said she had good conversations with the White House staff and was optimistic about relief efforts moving forward, she said Trump’s involvement in the meetings were just for good publicity.

“He really has a communication issue. … You know he’s sort of like the miscommunicator-in-chief, really. You don’t go to another place when people are in peril and are suffering and you just kind of hover around in a helicopter without having some kind words to say. This is common courtesy,” she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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