President Donald Trump is distorting reality when it comes to disaster aid for hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico. In a flurry of angry tweets Tuesday, he argues the US territory has gotten more than its fair share of money to rebuild after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017.
He asserts the territory had already received $91 billion in aid, which is flat wrong, and readers of his tweets would not know from them that Puerto Ricans are US citizens.
Trump: “Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane, more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before.”
Hogan Gidley, White House spokesman: “The fact is, they have received more money than any state or territory in history for a rebuild.” (interview Tuesday with MSNBC)
The facts: The money Puerto Rico has received for hurricane relief is nowhere close to $91 billion. Nor is the amount provided greater than for any other hurricane that has struck the US.
According to the White House, Trump’s $91 billion estimate includes about $50 billion in expected future disaster disbursements that could span decades, along with $41 billion already approved. But actual aid to Puerto Rico has flowed more slowly from federal coffers, about $11 billion so far.
Even if the $91 billion figure eventually comes to fruition, it would not be the most ever provided for hurricane rebuilding efforts. Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states in 2005, has cost the U.S government more than $120 billion.
Trump: “The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA.” (tweet Tuesday)
The Facts: Trump appears to suggest Puerto Rico is not part of the U.S. as he criticizes its territorial government for taking “from USA.” He does not criticize other Americans for taking “from USA.”
Gidley, speaking on MSNBC, called the notion that Trump was referring to Puerto Ricans as noncitizens “absolutely ridiculous.” But in the same interview Gidley had referred to Puerto Rico as “that country.” When pressed about his wording, Gidley said it was a mistake and he meant to say “territory.”
Puerto Ricans are Americans.