If you were already thinking that President Donald Trump’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico was insensitive, well — it’s not getting any better. Videos of Donald Trump throwing paper towels into a crowd in Puerto Rico during his visit to the embattled island are going viral. I'd say it's a joke, but it's not very funny.
The president took a "creative" approach to distributing supplies to those in need in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, Oct 3, according to NBC News. At a stop at Calvary Chapel in the island's capital of San Juan, the president first passed out food — and then helped distribute paper towels by lobbing them out into the crowd.
"There's a lot of love in this room," the president said.
Since Hurricane Maria hit the island on Sept. 20, approximately 95 percent of the power grid in Puerto Rico is still down, leaving millions of people without power — and without the medical care, the transportation, or the communication, that rely on power sources. As of Oct. 1, more than half of the island is without access to drinking water, according to the Pentagon. Lines for necessities like food and fuel can stretch for hours, and prices have risen dramatically. The situation, where hospitals have no power and the weak and elderly are fading in sweltering conditions, has been called a humanitarian crisis.
In short, the island is in dire need.
According to Politico, the move began after Trump asked a local teenager if he played basketball, and whether he was going to the NBA. Which is nice, on its own.
But in the context of the situation, the president tossing around rolls of paper towels like they're beach balls at a concert seems, to put it politely, surprisingly lighthearted.
And there were plenty of people who thought so.
President Trump's response to the crisis in Puerto Rico has been far from uncontroversial. The Trump administration drew fire for its slow response to the devastation on the island, whose more than 3 million residents are U.S. citizens, particularly as compared to the administration's response to the damage done by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, only weeks before Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. Some accused the president of racism in his response, suggesting that the damage in the Caribbean territory got less attention because its mostly-Hispanic residents are not a priority.
And during this, his first trip to the storm-ravaged island, Trump couldn't help shooting his mouth off.
He made an awful joke about the island's misfortune throwing the U.S. budget "out of whack," and suggested that the disaster wasn't as bad as Katrina, because the death count had stayed relatively low — never mind that the official death toll is likely artificially low because of ruined infrastructure and severed communication, as Vox points out.
Neither is this his first time flubbing an visit to a troubled area.
After Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas, Trump drew criticism for talking about how big the "crowd" who came to see him was, and neglecting to, you know, actually meet with any victims of the storm's devastation. Trump later went back to Texas for a second visit and meet with survivors, where he also took the opportunity stick his foot in his mouth by telling survivors to "have a good time."
So, uh, I guess he didn't get the message about the appropriate solemnity after a disaster that ruins a community.
Even the first lady took heat after she wore nosebleed stiletto heels while heading to Texas. (It seems that neither Trump has learned their lesson about treating natural disasters with the appropriate gravitas in the weeks since, as FLOTUS wore heels for both the second visit to Texas and Tuesday's trip to Puerto Rico.)
Crossing my fingers Trump figures it out before the inevitable next disaster. It's, pretty literally, the least we can hope for.