By Diane Cooke
President Donald Trump faced a major test last week when he travelled to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.
He intended showing the American citizens struggling for survival on the island that he understood their plight, sympathised with them and was doing everything in his power to make it better as quickly as he could.
He failed. Hugely, according to CNN.
Soon after touching down in Puerto Rico, Trump said the following to government officials:
"Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody's ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what's taken place in Puerto Rico."
It sounds like a sick joke, a crisis PR nightmare and, indeed, it was both of those things.
To suggest that what happened in Puerto Rico - an island devastated, with no power and food and water in short supply - wasn't a "real" catastrophe because not that many people died, is unpalatable to both islanders and the entire world. What was he thinking?
Trump also offended San Juan's mayor, Yulin Cruz who called President Donald Trump‘s visit to the island “insulting,” while wearing a “Nasty” T-shirt.
In an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos for Al Punto, Cruz explained why she had harsh words for Trump’s visit, saying, “Number one, what I said to the president is that this is about saving lives, this is not about politics. There are people who do everything for a calculative political motive. My only motive is a human motive.”
“We’re talking about life or death,” she added.
Ramos asked her to explain why she was wearing a “Nasty” T-shirt, to which she responded, “One of the expressions that the president used to describe me… I was a ‘nasty mayor.'”
“When it bothers somebody that you’re asking for drinking water, medicine for the sick and food for the hungry, that person has much deeper problems than what we can discuss in an interview,” she continued.
“What really is nasty is showing your back to the Puerto Rican people,” she added.
Being a “nasty woman” became a battle cry for women who opposed Trump after he branded presidential opponent Hilary Clinton a “nasty woman” during the election.
The mayor reiterated her comments about Trump “insulting” the island’s people on Tuesday in an interview with MSNBC, hours after meeting the president in a briefing among local leaders.
“There was no exchange with anybody, with none of the mayors. And in fact, this terrible, abominable view of him throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people, it’s really — it does not embody the spirit of the American nation,” Cruz said of the meeting, which she branded nothing but a PR exercise.
The mayor was referring to Trump throwing paper towels and other supplies at a crowd of Puerto Ricans inside of a church during his tour of the island.
Cruz criticised the Trump administration’s hurricane response to the island. The mayor appeared on television in a black shirt with white letters that read, "HELP US, WE ARE DYING." Cruz argued that federal aid had been slow to reach Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, which knocked out power to the entire island.
In response, Trump tweeted on Saturday, “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”
Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Cruz was “very nice at the beginning but she went a little bit on the nasty side and I said I guess she’s running for office, and it turns out I’m right.”