The media has taken aim at President Donald Trump for his “muted” response to the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. But Maria exposed much deeper problems in the longtime U.S. territory, hampering relief efforts.
“Puerto Rico’s weak infrastructure will make it difficult to provide the aid that it desperately needs,” NPR reported on Friday. “Well before this year’s series of historically powerful hurricanes, Puerto Rico already had a notoriously fickle power supply and crushing debt.”
The media appeared to place the blame solely on the president for what is now framed as a lackluster federal response to the natural disaster. At a time when the president is in a full-throat culture war with the National Football League and media elites — arguably a winning issue for the president — the media was looking for an opportunity to hit back.
“The administration’s feeble response to Hurricane Maria rivals [President George] Bush’s after Katrina” read a subhead in Slate. “President Trump appears more concerned with helping his political allies, taunting professional athletes, and issuing new travel bans,” Slate’s Phillip Carter wrote on Sept. 25.
Trump responded to his critics and acknowledged some of Puerto Rico’s problems in a series of tweets Monday night. “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated,” Trump tweeted. “Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars…. owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities — and doing well. #FEMA.”
“Trump’s racist neglect of Puerto Rico is threatening lives,” CNN contributor Brian Fallon said in a tweet Monday. Another CNN contributor, David Axelrod, asked why the “huge and growing humanitarian crisis” in Puerto Rico was not receiving any attention. “Too busy on anthems and epithets” Axelrod tweeted.
Making the current blame game from the media more suspect, early reports out of Puerto Rico carried a much different tone.
“This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination” said Jennifer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Washington, according to The Associated Press on Sept. 23. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló “praised the federal government” for the role in planning for the Hurricane, a contrast from the previous “neglect” of the 3.4 million American’s living on the island.
“Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico on Saturday” reported The Associated Press on Saturday. Local officials “praised the Trump administration’s response,” the report continued.
A Politico report from Sept. 25 claimed Trump is “less engaged with Maria’s devastation” than the recent Hurricanes that made landfall on the mainland. “Trump did not address the catastrophe from his Twitter account,” the report said. Politco claimed the White House defended the president’s “NFL fixation,” while many in Puerto Rico suffered.
Problems still persist in Puerto Rico. Prior to the storm, the power authority declared bankruptcy and power outages were routine. The hurricane knocked out the entire power grid, including more than 95 percent of the island’s cellphone system.
The White House announced Tuesday Trump will visit Puerto Rico in the coming days.
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