No surprise, President Trump is clapping back at the charge that he’s a “bully” who’s failing the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico.
“I’ve taken better care of Puerto Rico than anyone, ever,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to board Air Force One on Thursday. “Puerto Rico has been taken better care of by Donald Trump than by any living human being.”
The usually mild Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello had to disagree. Late Tuesday, Rossello said Trump should “put all of the resources at his disposal to help Americans in Puerto Rico, like he did for Texas and Alabama.” He said Trump’s comments railing against Puerto Rico were “below the dignity of a sitting president.” And then, on Thursday, in an interview with CNN, Rossello took it a step further: “If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.”
This most recent spat comes as the Trump administration doubles down on its rhetoric that the island has received too much government money for the economic fallout after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017. Trump has repeatedly claimed Puerto Rico received $91 billion in aid, and reportedly said as much during a closed-door meeting with Republicans this week, although that’s far more than the island has actually received, according to the Washington Post. In January, Trump said he didn’t want to meet Puerto Rico’s request for $600 million in emergency food stamps, and he said he didn’t want any more money going to Puerto Rico.
Rossello at first praised the president for his response to the disaster efforts in 2017, drawing ire from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yuilin Cruz, who said on Twitter that Rosello is now “desperate because he knows that history will remember him as a coward.”
Last year, Trump also drew widespread criticism for claiming Puerto Rico’s death toll from Hurricane Maria had been artificially inflated to make him look bad. In fact, according to a government-commissioned study out of George Washington University, nearly 3,000 people died — 46 times the initial, official toll of 64 deaths. Thousands of Puerto Ricans fled the island after the storm, unable to cope with the wreckage left behind.
Cover: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello (GDA via AP Images)