US President Donald Trump is facing widespread criticism for his Puerto Rico trip as he complained about the costs of hurricane damage, belittled the scope of the devastation and tossed paper towels at crowds seeking relief aid.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack,” Trump said in a meeting with relief workers on Tuesday.
“We spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine. We saved a lot of lives,” he went on to say.
Trump also said Puerto Ricans should be “proud” that only 16 people died from Hurricane Maria, comparing it with the higher death toll of Hurricane Katrina, which he labeled “a real catastrophe.”
Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, made landfall in 2005 in southeast Louisiana and killed 1,800 people.
“You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together,” he said. “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.”
“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,” Trump once again reiterated.
Later in the day, Trump made a 20-minute visit to a church where he posed for pictures with people seeking relief supplies, and hurled paper towel rolls into the crowd.
There were many signs of discontent with Trump’s Tuesday trip. As his motorcade drove from an air base to the church, it also passed a woman showing a placard that said, “You are a bad hombre,” according to a pool report.
In an escalating war of words, the mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, slammed the president for tossing rolls of paper towels, calling his act “terrible and abominable.”
“This terrible and abominable view of him throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people, it’s really—it does not embody the spirit of the American nation, you know,” Mayor Carmen Cruz told MSNBC. “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.”
On Twitter, images of the president tossing paper towels to Hurricane Maria survivors like they were prizes circulated quickly, with some comparing it to Trump practicing shooting a basketball.