While the American media landscape finds itself riddled with daily landmines deposited by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, news of Puerto Rico’s devastation following Hurricanes Irma and Maria continues to grow worse. Celebrities like Lady Gaga have contributed millions to relief efforts, but the slow federal response has garnered a great deal of criticism. Homeland Security decided not to extend its Jones Act waiver for the island, and FEMA has admitted to ignoring San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s pleas for help (while scrubbing negative information about the disaster from its website).
And then there’s President Donald Trump, whose typical morning routine involves a healthy dose of news consumption, followed by a string of tweets about whatever caught his attention. On Thursday, it seems his program of choice was the Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s syndicated newsmagazine Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson, for Trump quoted her directly before launching into what sounds like a threat to abandon Puerto Rico altogether. “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making,” he quoted the former CBS News correspondent.
“A total lack of accountability [says] the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend,” Trump continued. His latter point seems to have been vague references to recent reports saying the federal aid package currently being put together for Puerto Rico is not, unlike previous aid packages for Texas, Florida and the Gulf Coast, a grant. Instead, it is a loan the island must eventually repay.
Instead of repeating his previous on-camera claim that Puerto Rico’s debt should be “wiped out,” however, Trump instead concluded his rant with what amounts to a threat. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” he exclaimed.