President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived in southeast Texas today to survey the damage and relief efforts there as the region continues to cope with the impact of Hurricane Harvey—but in keeping with his demeanor during most of his public appearances, the president was unable to address a crowd of residents without mentioning the size of the audience.
"What a crowd! What a turnout!" Trump remarked to a crowd of supporters in Corpus Christi who had come out to see him speak at a fire station after he met with local and state officials.
According to a media pool report, "Reporters heard no mention of the dead, dying or displaced Texans and no expression of sympathy for them."
As Think Progress noted following Trump's appearance, "In all of his public statements since Harvey made landfall, Trump has mentioned the victims just once."
He extended his "thoughts and prayers for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and the catastrophe of flooding and all of the other difficulties that they’re currently going through" at a press conference on Monday.
"But those brief remarks," wrote Think Progress, "as of Tuesday afternoon, are the extent of his empathy."
The rest of Trump's statement at the fire station also focused largely on the historic nature of the storm and the size of the recovery operation. “We want to do it better than ever before," he said. "We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion."
The tone matched the president's frequent tweets on the storm:
Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
The president's habit of bringing up his fan base and his accomplishments was also memorably on display earlier this month following a press conference at Trump Tower where he discussed the violence at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. After declining to clearly denounce the white supremacists who had organized the gathering, which led to the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer, Trump remarked on a winery he owns in Charlottesville.
The president also said Monday that he decided to announce his planned pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who racially profiled Latino residents of Arizona and established a detention center that he compared favorably to a concentration camp, in order to boost television ratings for his press conference as Hurricane Harvey was approaching Texas last week.
On social media on Tuesday, critics expressed disbelief at Trump's comments in Corpus Christi.
"What a crowd, what a turnout" — even one of the worst natural disasters in US history is just another campaign rally to Trump pic.twitter.com/ZXWe9ap6gj— Mark Follman (@markfollman) August 29, 2017
Trump in Texas: "What a crowd. What a turnout!"— PROUD RESISTER (@ProudResister) August 29, 2017
At least 15 people have lost their lives and Trump is still talking about his crowd sizes.
As news of police officer losing life in line of duty in the hurricane breaks, Trump talks about crowd size in TX pic.twitter.com/e1RoJyTg41— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) August 29, 2017
The juxtaposition of Trump after Harvey "rally": “What a crowd, what a turnout” vs Prez Obama after Sandy Hook.— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) August 29, 2017
Narcissist vs real statesman pic.twitter.com/2patq1Tk1J