President Donald Trump faced immediate backlash after he criticized hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and warned the U.S. territory that federal aid workers cannot stay there “forever.”
In a series of tweets on Thursday morning, Trump quoted conservative television journalist Sharyl Attkisson as he blamed the island for a financial crisis “largely of their own making” and infrastructure that was a “disaster” before Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20.
“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” the president said.
He also accused Puerto Rico officials of a “total lack of accountability” in their response to Hurricane Maria, which has killed at least 45 people and left about 85 percent of Puerto Rico residents still without electricity.
The comments sparked overwhelming outrage on Twitter, where critics called the president “racist,” “inhumane” and a “heartless monster.”
The House is poised to approve on Thursday a $36 billion disaster aid package, $16 billion of which would go toward flood insurance claims and emergency funding to help Puerto Rico.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Puerto Rico and its officials who have been pleading for aid in the wake of the hurricane. On Sept. 30, he lashed out at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Twitter, blasting her “poor leadership ability.”
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Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda did not mince words when he came to Cruz’s defense, telling Trump on Twitter: “You’re going straight to hell.”
In a new interview with PGI.org this week, Cruz said she doesn’t “give a s–t” about Trump’s attacks on her and added: “This isn’t about me or politics. I’m not going to be the face you see out there just giving you a box of food for the photo op. I’m the face of the person who is going to make sure somebody gets that to you … so like the last scene of Gone With the Wind — ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ “
On Thursday, Cruz criticized the president again in a statement shared to media outlets including CBS and NBC News.
“Tweet away your hate to mask your administration’s mishandling of this humanitarian crisis. While you are amusing yourself throwing paper towels at us, your compatriots and the world are sending love and help our way,” she wrote in a message shared by CBS News correspondent David Begnaud on Twitter.
“Help us,” she implored. “Without robust and consistent help we will die.”