NBC News’ Hallie Jackson fact-checked White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley in real time after Gidley repeated President Donald Trump’s falsehoods regarding Puerto Rico. Gidley also twice incorrectly called the U.S. territory “that country,” which he later said was “a slip of the tongue.”
In an interview Tuesday morning with Jackson, Gidley attempted to defend President Donald Trump’s tweeted attacks at Puerto Rico, where nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in 2017, and where the Trump administration is widely blamed for bungling disaster response after the catastrophic storm.
On Monday, a disaster relief bill stalled in the Senate due to a disagreement over the amount in food stamp and other aid that ought to be allocated to the U.S. territory.
“They have received more money than any state or territory in history for rebuild,” Gidley asserted confidently, adding: “They have not come to $91 billion, with all we’ve done in that country, where they have had a systematic mismanagement of the goods and services we’ve sent to them.”
Jackson jumped in, correcting the White House spokesperson on three fronts. “These are things that are not true, just factually, from a factual basis,” she said.
First, the “$91 billion” Gidley and Trump cited doesn’t represent what’s been spent on recovery in Puerto Rico, but rather the Trump administration’s high-end estimate of what recovery on the island could cost in the long run, The Washington Post reported. The territory has only actually received about $11 billion in aide.
Second, even if Puerto Rico receives $91 billion in federal assistance over the lifetime of the Hurricane Maria recovery — which will take many more years — that still won’t come close to the estimated $120 billion federal bill for the recovery after Hurricane Katina.
Finally, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens who live in a U.S. territory. Gidley said later in the interview that it was “a mistake” to refer to the island as “that country.”
“Do you think that’s a concern that there is that kind of slip of the tongue inside the White House?” Jackson asked.
“No,” Gidley replied. “A slip of the tongue is not on purpose, Hallie, that would by definition be a slip of the tongue.”
Commenting on Gidley’s reference to Puerto Rico as “that country,” Politico’s Jake Sherman said “I’ve heard variations of this from many people inside the White House.” The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman agreed.
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) April 2, 2019