President Donald Trump has once again congratulated himself for Puerto Rico’s recovery after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, telling reporters on Thursday he has “taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever.”
“Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being, and I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it,” he said outside the White House as he left for a rally in Michigan. He noted that the U.S. government was giving more money to the island than to Texas or to Florida, which also suffered destructive hurricanes.
“Frankly, the people of Puerto Rico, I really have a great relationship with them, and I think, when it comes time, they really do appreciate it,” he added.
The president also took a dig at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a frequent Trump critic, saying she “frankly doesn’t know what she’s doing.” He warned her and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to “spend the money wisely.”
The Trump administration has faced repeated criticism for its slow and uneven response to Maria compared to disasters on the mainland. A March 2018 report in Politico showed the administration had by then sent far more support to Texas after Hurricane Harvey than to Puerto Rico after Maria, both in terms of the speed and size of the assistance. Per The Washington Post, the U.S. government is estimated to spend more on Puerto Rico’s recovery over the long term.
In his first visit to the island after Maria, Trump notoriously tossed paper towels at survivors, who were in dire need of basic services after the storm wiped out electricity island-wide. During that visit, he also lambasted Puerto Rico for creating a budget strain. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said.
Just this week, NBC News reported that Trump had told Republican legislators at a closed-door meeting that Puerto Rico had received too much money to rebuild after Hurricane Maria.
A Washington Post poll from September 2018, a year after the storm, found that the vast majority of Puerto Ricans said they didn’t think Trump had done a good job responding to the hurricane, with 80 percent of Puerto Ricans rating his job as “poor” or “fair,” and only 15 percent as “good,” “very good” or “excellent.”
Trump also patted himself on the back for his response to Maria just a month after the devastating storm, giving himself a 10 out of 10 rating in reply to a reporter’s question. At the time, about 80 percent of the island still had no power and 30 percent had no drinking water.
Last year, after Rosselló increased the official death count for the hurricane and its aftermath from 64 to nearly 3,000 people following an independent analysis, Trump told reporters: “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico,” adding that the federal government had “put a lot of money and a lot of effort into Puerto Rico.”