Was Donald Trump Right To ‘Praise’ Puerto Rico’s Death Toll From Hurricane Maria? [Opinion]

If we have learned one thing about Donald Trump, it is that he is a president who shoots from the lip. We can also be sure that when President Trump speaks, the world’s press waits, fingers poised, to report the latest gaffe or controversial comment. Today, Trump, accompanied by the first lady, traveled to Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory devastated by Hurricane Maria. Trump’s visit was always going to be a difficult one. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Trump was fiercely criticized for a 16-message Twitter tirade aimed squarely at Puerto Rican officials dealing with the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria.

Trump claimed that the Puerto Rican people were failing to help themselves and claimed that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.” The president also attacked claims that not enough was being done to help Puerto Rico as “fake news.”

In the wake of that onslaught, it seems that the world’s press was looking for any opportunity to heap further scorn on Trump’s response when he visited the stricken island today. That opportunity arose when Trump compared the death toll as a result of Maria with Hurricane Katrina.

Numerous outlets have published stories critical of Trump’s comments. The Independent, for example, implies that Trump suggested that Hurricane Maria wasn’t a real disaster. Admittedly, President Trump could have chosen his words more carefully when he said that the people of Puerto Rico should be proud that only 16 people died in Hurricane Maria, compared with the “thousands” killed in “a real catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina.”

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Among others, ABC News criticize Trump for telling Puerto Ricans that the recovery effort on the island has thrown his budget “a little out of whack.”

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” said Trump. “Because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that’s fine. We saved a lot of lives.”

It is probably fair to say that many will see comments about costs during such a catastrophe as crass and insensitive but is President Trump right to say that Puerto Rico should be proud of the fact that relatively few people died as a result of Hurricane Maria. During his visit, President Trump was told that just 16 people had died so far as a direct result of Hurricane Maria.

By contrast, at least 1,833 were killed by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. Even that number seems insignificant when compared with Hurricane Mitch in 1998 when at least 19,325 people died.

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Of course, one death as the result of a storm is one too many, but perhaps Donald Trump is right to say that the Puerto Rican people should be proud that so few died as a result of Hurricane Maria. Early warning systems and hurricane plans doubtless saved many lives and for that, we should all be thankful.

We know that Donald Trump is a man who doesn’t like to work from a script. When he gets it wrong he is lambasted by all and sundry, perhaps on this occasion, Trump’s sentiment rather than his words convey the message better. It will cost an astronomical amount of money to put right the damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The human cost is also huge, but perhaps we can agree with Donald Trump and give thanks that this year’s massive storms have claimed relatively few lives.

[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]