by Jessica Corbett
President Donald Trump provoked immediate outrage on Tuesday with his “disgusting” declaration on national television that the federal government’s widely condemned response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María—which led to thousands of dead Americans—”was an incredible, unsung success.”
“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” the president said. “I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
“Shame on President Trump,” responded Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.). “Puerto Rico is one of Trump’s most significant failures to date!”
Trump’s remarks came during a briefing on Hurricane Florence, a “historic” storm that is currently charging toward Virginia and the Carolinas, forcing more than a million residents to evacuate. The backlash was swift, with critics pointing to the incredibly high death toll after the hurricane struck Puerto Rico last September.
“Success? Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico a success? If he thinks the death of 3,000 people [is] a success God help us all.”
Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor San Juan, PR
While the initial official death toll of 64 has long been dismissed as ridiculously inaccurate, a government-commissioned study published in late August updated that number to 2,975. Previously, Harvard researchers in May estimated that between 4,645 and 5,740 people died in the U.S. territory due to the hurricane.
In response to the president’s comments on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who has criticized the Trump administration’s failed recovery efforts, and introduced an aid package for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last November—tweeted: “Nearly 3,000 people died. That is not a ‘success.’ That is a tragedy and a disgrace.”
“3,000 dead Americans isn’t an ‘unsung success,’ it’s a national disgrace,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “It’s nothing but disrespect for the memory of those lost in Puerto Rico, torn from their homes, and all those still struggling.”
“Success? Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico a success? If he thinks the death of 3,000 people [is] a success God help us all,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, another vocal critic of how Trump has handled the crisis, responded in a series of tweets. “Trump simply does not get it. Thus, his neglect towards Puerto Rico cost about 3,000 lives. Unfortunately, it seems he will never get it.”
Jessica Corbett is a Staff Writer at CommonDreams.
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