Trump Describes His Puerto Rico Hurricane Response as an ‘Unsung Success’

Ask most Americans to describe the emergency response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and they’ll struggle to come up with a positive account.

The devastating hurricane killed nearly 3,000 people, and Puerto Rico was without power for months, FEMA has failed to meet the needs of residents, and the federal government has been heavily criticized for the racial imbalances in hurricane response.

But if you ask the president, he’ll tell you a very different story.

Trump claims that disaster relief following Hurricane Maria was an “unsung success,” and reports about the death toll are a “plot by Democrats to make him look bad.” He also criticized Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan and an outspoken Trump critic, suggesting that she was responsible for the catastrophe.

This kind of magical thinking isn’t new for Donald Trump, but given that Hurricane Florence has already made landfall in the Southeast, his ludicrous comments highlight the incredibly high stakes here. As with President George W. Bush’s infamous “heck of a job, Brownie,” Trump’s comments are eliding the truth about a natural disaster that turned into a humanitarian disaster because the government failed to respond appropriately.

Take action: Join the Care2 activists calling for an independent investigation into what went wrong in Puerto Rico.

The problems in Puerto Rico during the 2017 hurricane season reflected a complicated set of circumstances. They included a series of severe storms that dumped a lot of rain and came with howling winds, too. While Trump was right when he said Puerto Rico’s infrastructure wasn’t the greatest before the storm, that wasn’t news to anyone: Chronic underfunding and lack of federal support made it very difficult for Puerto Rican officials and residents to build climate resilience — especially since the federal government’s current official line is that climate change doesn’t exist.

And while FEMA has a deservedly bad reputation, it wasn’t helped by staff and funding shortages — including $10 million moved to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to build facilities to incarcerate immigrant children.

Federal responders also severely botched their storm relief efforts, failing to bring enough supplies and equipment, provide enough staffers and work with local communities. Puerto Ricans were understandably furious, with many noting that Puerto Rico is often treated as an afterthought when it is, in fact, part of the United States.

After the storm, officials tried to downplay what was happening — even as communities struggled to access food and drinkable water, fought to restore damaged homes and dealt with an escalating number of deaths. Only recently did the government finally acknowledge that the death toll wasn’t just over 100, but more like 3,000.

On Thursday, Trump went on a Twitter tirade over the government’s official acknowledgment. He claimed that these deaths didn’t happen in the storm, so they don’t count — even though researchers and Puerto Rican officials very clearly linked these deaths to the storm.

Older adults wouldn’t have died if hospitals and homes had electricity. People who rely on ventilators to breathe wouldn’t have died if their equipment had been operational. People wouldn’t have become sick from contaminated drinking water if they’d had access to clean drinking water.

In his remarks, Trump characterized Hurricane Katrina, a storm that killed some 2,000 people and left a scar on communities in Louisiana that endures to this day, as a “real catastrophe.” So what does that make Maria?

The impact of both storms was made worse by inadequate federal response and racial disparities — with Katrina affecting heavily black communities, while Puerto Rico predominantly impacted Latinx communities. And just as Katrina was a smear on the Bush presidency, Maria will live in infamy as a stain on Trump’s.

Take Action!

Join Care2 activists demanding an independent investigation into the events of Hurricane Maria.

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Photo credit: Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Puerto Rico National Guard—Public Affairs Office


Susanne R
Susanne R6 months ago

Paul B. - You stated that, "There are a number of people directly associated with the relief efforts who agree with Trump, we did everything we were supposed to do."

Can you name these people?

Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D6 months ago

Can someone send Donald the Disaster a dictionary?? Clearly he does not know the meaning of the word "success"

Chad Anderson
Chad A6 months ago

Thank you.

Paul B
Paul B6 months ago

The disaster of Katrina, again was the failure of Dem leadership Mayor Nagan to heed warnings, and do what needed to be done to minimize the damages. Dem failure blamed on anyone else... once again. This seems to be a repeating story.

Paul B
Paul B6 months ago

There are a number of people directly associated with the relief efforts who agree with Trump, we did everything we were supposed to do.. PR dropped the ball in several cases while the mayor immediately went on line to trash Trump. Her 5 minutes of fame were more important than her citizens... SHE should be prosecuted for dereliction of duty.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill6 months ago

PR was already in really bad shape due to very bad management before the 2 hurricanes hit. Their power grid was already almost non existent. During the early days of Maria, the Governor and the Mayor of San Juan refused to allow the relief ships to dock. Now there have been several indictments of corruption charges against several officials! These and other officials were trying to make Trump look bad. We the American taxpayers sent plenty of aid as did all of the charities that respond to natural disasters.

Susanne R
Susanne R6 months ago

Trump describes his sexual assaults as an unsung success. He thinks the fact that he didn't contract an STD while he was busy evading the draft was an unsung success. I wonder if he ever gives a thought to the five young men who took his place when his deferments were granted. Were they wounded? Did they die? Are they disabled or suffering from PTSD? I doubt that he cares --even though he gives a lot of lip service to the cause of Veterans. He didn't end up with any STDs, and that's all that matters.

David F
David F6 months ago

Mary B.

Teresa A
Teresa Antela6 months ago


Leo C
Leo C6 months ago

Thank you for sharing!