Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Appearing in San Juan, the president declined to thank Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has put pressure on the administration in recent days to speed up recovery efforts. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Trump's Disgusting, Tone Deaf, Paper-Towel-Throwing Trip to Puerto Rico

President suggests crisis not a "real catastrophe" and jabs islanders for costing government "a lot of money"

Julia Conley

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump alarmed critics during his long-awaited trip to the U.S. territory on Tuesday, during which he appeared eager to continue his one-sided feud with the mayor of San Juan, openly complained about the cost of the disaster, and took on a self-congratulatory tone regarding the recovery—one that was at odds with the ongoing reports of devastation throughout the island.

While suggesting that the crisis in Puerto Rico was somehow not a "real catastrophe like Katrina," Trump also said, "I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that's fine. We've saved a lot of lives."

On social media, journalists and critics expressed shock regarding Trump’s Puerto Rico trip. Some noted some of the day's more bizarre moments, including Trump jubilantly throwing paper towel rolls into a crowd and telling a hurricane victim to "have a good time."

While expressing gratitude to those who have been involved in the recovery, Trump mentioned Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who last week called the Hurricane Maria recovery "a good news story," and Governor Ricardo Rossello, who has been complimentary to the Trump administration since relief efforts began in the days after the storm. He declined to mention San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been largely responsible for drawing much of the world’s attention to the disaster in recent days.

While nearly half of her island's 3.4 million people were without clean drinking water and almost the entire island was without power last week, Cruz spoke out against Duke's overly sunny assessment of the situation, saying she was "mad as hell" about the administration's slow response and demanding that the White House send an official to oversee the distribution of supplies.

Though she said nothing about Trump specifically, the president took Cruz's comments personally and was apparently unmoved when Cruz reportedly told him, "It's not about politics" before his press conference Tuesday. Upon singling out Rossello, he thanked the governor for not "playing politics."

On the subject of lives saved, Trump turned to Rossello and asked, "What is your death count as of this moment?" and marveled that the official number of lives lost in Puerto Rico is 16 as of now.

The count of 16 has not been updated in nearly a week, and officials say the death toll is likely to go up; because of the severity of the disaster, fuel shortages, and roads that haven't been cleared, as of Saturday there were still towns that FEMA has not yet reached.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Docs Show DHS Watchdog Delayed Telling Congress About Deleted Secret Service Texts

The Project on Government Oversight says the records reveal a pattern of Inspector General Joseph Cuffari "rejecting proposals to inform Congress about the Secret Service's resistance to oversight."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Dictatorship Never Again': Massive Pro-Democracy Protests Sweep Brazil

"Democracy involves changing the government and eliminating neo-fascism," said one prominent protester, "but above all, ensuring that the working class, the people, have the rights guaranteed in the Constitution."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Door to Real Progress': Jayapal Makes Case for House Passage of the IRA

"It's an achievement we can all feel excited about—especially when we dig into the details," said the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Julia Conley ·


Officers Kill Gunman Who Tried to Breach FBI Office in Ohio

Though the suspect's identity and potential motivations are not known, the attack follows fear of far-right retaliation for this week's federal search of former President Donald Trump's home.

Jessica Corbett ·


House Dems Urge Biden to Provide Assistance to Cuba Amid Fire Disaster

"Now is the time," said Reps. Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, and Gregory Meeks, to "prioritize humanitarian engagement, environmental protection, and regional cooperation."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo