Donald Trump thanks Bill Clinton’s FEMA Director for praising his Puerto Rico response – but it never happened

Donald Trump held an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, which proved to be controversial when he was exposed as not having called the families of the U.S. soldiers who died on October 4th, and then he was caught falsely claiming that previous presidents hadn’t made such calls. That created such controversy that another bizarre lie from Trump during that same press conference nearly slipped under the radar.


Trump made a point of thanking President Bill Clinton’s former FEMA Secretary James Lee Witt for having praised the post-hurricane response in Puerto Rico. Trump even went so far as to claim that he had “always had a lot of respect” for Witt. The first problem: Trump and his administration had never even heard of Witt, according to a Politico report (link). The second problem: Witt never even said it to begin with.


Here’s what James Lee Witt tweeted after Trump’s press conference claim: “As Director of FEMA I responded to 350 presidential disaster declarations. Disaster Responses are about people – not politics. After the initial hurricane response in Texas and Florida, I was asked if I would give FEMA and the government an A+ for their response. I would give the hurricane response for Florida and Texas an A+, this was prior to Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico. It is still too early to grade the hurricane response in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.” (link). In other words, Witt never praised Trump’s response to Puerto Rico – and Trump simply made it up.

This also serves to underscore that while Donald Trump and his administration were quick to provide relief efforts to Texas and Florida, two states which Trump won in the election, he made no timely effort to help Puerto Rico – a territory which largely consists of minorities, and has no electoral votes anyway.


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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report

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