Climate action advocates and journalists are calling out President Donald Trump's silence for nearly three weeks, as historic wildfires have torn across the western United States, devastating communities that were already struggling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis.
Both CNN and the group Climate Power 2020—which works to put the Trump administration on defense for ignoring scientists and serving polluters—pointed out Thursday that the president hasn't publicly addressed the climate change-fueled fires "in any way, shape, or form" since August, despite attending dozens of events.
Shouldn't it tell us something that we don't expect the president of the United States (who's up for re-election) to say/do about anything about the epic disaster sweeping the West Coast – and that, even if he did, no one would find it particularly helpful?https://t.co/leOdz0BOHa
— Perry Parks (@perryrparks) September 10, 2020
Trump's last comment on the fires came on August 23, according to a Climate Power 2020 analysis that tallied 46 appearances since the press conference almost three weeks ago, when the president noted that he had approved a disaster declaration for California and spoken with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
A few days earlier, as CNN reported, Trump slammed the state's forest management practices, telling the crowd at a rally, "I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests—there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they're like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up."
Referencing Trump's track record of dismissing the human-caused climate emergency as a "hoax," Climate Power 2020 executive director Lori Lodes slammed his refusal to even acknowledge the ongoing fire crisis spanning over a quarter of U.S. states as a dereliction of duties as president.
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"President Trump's silence and complete disregard for the millions of people at risk is horrifying," Lodes said. "It shouldn't matter if it's a red state or a blue state, the president should be above politics in moments of crises. He calls climate change a 'hoax' when we can all see our nation is burning. Voters see through his B.S."
As Lodes' group noted in a statement Thursday:
In 2019, Trump threatened to withhold FEMA disaster funding for the state because of a political grudge. As Politico reported: "He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn't support him," said Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere told CNN on Thursday that "the federal government continues to support our western neighbors who are battling raging wildfires in a locally executed, state-managed and federally supported emergency response."
"President Trump is closely monitoring and continues to urge individual emergency preparedness and citizens in impacted areas to listen to the warnings of state and local officials," Deere added.
For this current wave of fires, FEMA "has freed up some federal funds for combating the blazes," according to CNN. "The White House said 24 fire management grants have been approved since mid-August for Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming."