“Before we begin,” President Trump said at the outset of his speech in Alabama on Friday, “I want to send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Texas and Louisiana and Florida and Georgia and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and all of the other communities that have recently been ravaged by storms and by floods.”
It was, according to the Trump-tracking website Factba.se, the most recent time that Trump mentioned Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory that was devastated by Hurricane Maria last week.
Washington Post reporters on the ground there detail widespread destruction and increasing desperation.
“Many have been openly wondering when help will arrive, whether from local officials or from the federal government,” Samantha Schmidt and Joel Achenbach reported Sunday. “The first thing some villagers ask when they see outsiders: ‘Are you FEMA?’ ”
The day before Trump’s speech in Alabama on behalf of his preferred Senate candidate in the state, the president recognized the plight of the island when talking to reporters.
“Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated,” he said. “Puerto Rico got hit with winds they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere, got hit with a five, category five hurricane which literally never happens. So Puerto Rico is in very very tough shape. Their electrical grid is destroyed. It wasn’t in good shape to start off with. But their electrical grid is totally destroyed. And so many other things.”
Trump tweeted about Puerto Rico twice, once as Maria was over the island and once the day after. He spoke with the governor of Puerto Rico on Friday as well, to express support, as the official readout of the call indicates. Since Friday, though, nothing about Puerto Rico as he enjoyed a weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
Trump’s speech in Alabama, incidentally, soon transitioned into a subject about which Trump clearly had strong feelings: protests at NFL games.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'” Trump said at the rally. “You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
He continued, as transcribed by the Guardian’s Bryan Armen Graham:
“But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”
Then the tweets began — before, during and after Sunday’s games.
Trump also retweeted this:
In the new Post-ABC poll released Sunday, Trump’s response to the hurricanes that flooded Texas and panicked Florida was considered one of the few bright spots in his administration. More than half of Americans approved of the responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; the poll was in the field as Maria hit.
At a news conference on Sept. 14, Trump promised to head to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands “sometime the end of next week or the following week” — that is, at the end of last week or sometime this week. He repeated the pledge Thursday.
Plans for such a trip have not been announced.