President Trump made a rare understatement about the size of his portfolio Friday, when he said during a press conference that he had “met with the president of the Virgin Islands” on a trip to discuss recent hurricane damage.
“I will tell you I left Texas and I left Florida and and I left Louisiana and I went to Puerto Rico and I met with the President of the Virgin Islands,” he told the audience at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are, like Puerto Rico, a United States territory, and their residents are American citizens. They do not have a separate president; Trump holds that gig.
“We are one nation and we all hurt together, we hope together and we heal together,” he said, adding “The Virgin Islands and the President of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’re be there, we’re going to be there, we have really, it is not even a question of a choice.”
Trump might have been referring to the governor of the Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, with whom he met earlier this month.
The president has come under fire for his response to the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, starting with the fact that he did not seem to know that he was president of that territory, or that its residents are United States citizens, either. He also did not seem to know where Puerto Rico is, describing it to reporters as “an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean, a really, really big ocean.” Puerto Rico is not in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which begins 550 miles off its eastern coast. It is not in an ocean at all but the Caribbean Sea.
Geography and civics aside, Trump’s reaction to the Puerto Rico disaster was criticized as slow and indifferent, from the immediate aftermath through yesterday, when he said the U.S. would not keep FEMA in the territory “forever.” FEMA later walked back the president’s remarks, when deputy director of public affairs Eileen Lainez tweeted that FEMA “will be w/Puerto Rico, [U.S. Virgin Islands], every state, territory impacted by a disaster every day, supporting throughout their response & recovery.” Residents of the island are still largely without power or clean drinking water.