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Donald Trump’s Puerto Rico visit was all about publicity, San Juan mayor says

Click to play video: 'Donald Trump throws paper towels into crowd at Puerto Rico relief center' Donald Trump throws paper towels into crowd at Puerto Rico relief center
WATCH: Donald Trump throws paper towels into crowd at Puerto Rico relief centre – Oct 3, 2017

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico had some harsh words for U.S. President Donald Trump, after he visited the hurricane-ravaged island Tuesday.

The president, who has been criticized for his slow response in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria, was “insulting” during his visit, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told MSNBC Tuesday night.

READ MORE: Puerto Rico death toll from Hurricane Maria more than doubles to 34

“He was insulting to the people of Puerto Rico,” Cruz said, adding that the trip was all just “PR.”

“This was a PR, 17-minute meeting. There was no exchange with anybody, with none of the mayors,” she  said.

She also slammed the president for throwing paper towel rolls into a crowd.

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WATCH: More coverage of Trump’s Puerto Rico response

“And in fact, this terrible and abominable view of him throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people, it really — it does not embody the spirit of the American nation, you know?”

The president also remarked that the island should “be very proud” of the death toll of 16 — which has since been upped to 34 — as it’s low compared to Hurricane Katrina.

READ MORE: Donald Trump slams local-level disaster response amid visit to devastated Puerto Rico

“He kind of minimized our suffering here by saying that Katrina was a real disaster, sort of implying that this was not a real disaster because not many people have died here.”

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The mayor and Trump met face-to-face for the first time Tuesday, after indirectly exchanging heated words days earlier. They shook hands and spoke briefly.

WATCH: How politics may be hindering recovery in Puerto Rico

Click to play video: 'How politics may be hindering recovery in Puerto Rico' How politics may be hindering recovery in Puerto Rico
How politics may be hindering recovery in Puerto Rico – Sep 28, 2017

“I told him, ‘Mr. President this is about saving lives. It’s not about politics,'” Cruz recounted in an interview with CNN.

Cruz slammed Trump’s relief response last week during an interview with CNN, where she pleaded with the administration for more help.

The president responded on Twitter, criticizing the mayor for “poor leadership.”

In Tuesday’s CNN interview, Cruz said she hopes Trump will stop saying things that hurt Puerto Ricans.

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READ MORE: San Juan mayor slams Trump official for saying Puerto Rico response is a ‘good news story’

“I would hope that the president of the United States stops spouting out comments that really hurt the people of Puerto Rico because rather than commander in chief he sort of becomes miscommunicator in chief.”

Following the Puerto Rico visit, Trump appeared on Fox News and promised to “wipe out” the island’s debt. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney backed away from Trump’s comments hours later.

Trump was referring to Puerto Rico’s need to fix its own debt issues through its oversight board, Mulvaney said in an interview with CNN Wednesday morning.

WATCH: U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico

Click to play video: 'U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico' U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico
U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico – Sep 28, 2017

Meanwhile, a poll released by The Associated Press-NORC Wednesday found that just 32 per cent approve of how Trump is handling disaster relief in the U.S. territory, while 49 per cent disapprove.

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The poll was conducted before Trump visited the island.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,150 adults was conducted Sept. 28-Oct. 2. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

— With a file from Reuters, The Associated Press

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