San Juan Mayor Labels Trump "Miscommunicator-in-Chief" After "Insulting" Visit
"This was a PR, 17-minute meeting," said Carmen Yulin Cruz of Trump's visit to Puerto Rico. "There was no exchange with anybody."
Now that President Donald Trump has come and gone, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is speaking out about his "insulting" visit to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Calling him the "miscommunicator-in-chief,” Cruz took issue with many aspects of his Tuesday visit, particularly his comparison of Hurricane Maria to the "real" devastation of Katrina and the scene of Trump throwing paper towels to Puerto Ricans.
"This was a PR, 17-minute meeting," said Cruz while appearing on MSNBC Tuesday night. "There was no exchange with anybody. With none of the mayors."
Cruz was Trump's most prominent critic heading into the visit, which followed a weekend in which Trump pushed back on criticism over federal relief response and cited the "poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico" on Twitter. The interaction was even skewered in the opening moments of this weekend's Saturday Night Live premiere.
When Trump touched down Tuesday, Cruz joined other officials at the air base for a briefing with Trump and shook his hand. But video that aired during the MSNBC segment showed the president dismissing Cruz. "Sir, it's all about saving lives. It's not about politics," she told him while shaking his hand. He thanked her and then walked away without acknowledging her words.
"He was insulting to the people of Puerto Rico," she said of Trump's comments that Puerto Rico threw the U.S. budget "out of whack." Adding, "He minimized our suffering here by saying 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." Adding that the news has "been witness to everything we are saying."
As for the "terrible and abominable view" of Trump throwing paper towels and provisions at people, Cruz said the moment does not embody the spirit of the American nation. "That is not the land of the free and the home of the brave, the beacon of democracy, that people have learned to look up to across the world," she said.
Mainly, Cruz zeroed in on Trump having a "communication issue." Saying, "He’s sort of like miscommunicator-in-chief. You don't go to another place when people are in peril and suffering and hover around in a helicopter without having kind words to say."
His staffers, however, showed her a different approach and she praised their efforts. After meeting with the White House staff, Cruz had taken to Twitter to praise the "productive" and Trump-less face-to-face. "They REALLY understood the disconnect between how things are supposed to happen and how they really happen," she wrote. "Hopefully the newly open channels of communication with WH staff will put in motion what is needed to accomplish our goal: save lives."
Early Wednesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to call the trip a "great day" and bemoan some of the "fake" news coverage. "A great day in Puerto Rico yesterday. While some of the news coverage is Fake, most showed great warmth and friendship," he wrote.
As of Wednesday, the death toll from Maria had risen to 34. Still, 95 percent of electricity customers are without power, including some hospitals, and it is said that it may take up to 10 months to fully restore service. The 3.4 million residents have been short on food and water since the hurricane struck Sept. 20, but Cruz said the influx of private donations and FEMA supplies are now making a big difference.