Did the Mainstream Media Blame Puerto Rico for Its Hurricane Disaster?

Media 'victim shames' Puerto Rico with reports on bankruptcy, infrastructure issues

Furniture damaged by Hurricane Maria and debris are seen on a street in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
Furniture damaged by Hurricane Maria and debris are seen on a street in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico / Getty Images
September 29, 2017

The lack of empathy. Blaming the island for its dire situation, citing massive debt, poor infrastructure, and a failing power grid? The gall.

Of course, I'm talking about the mainstream media, which has repeatedly pointed out Puerto Rico's bankruptcy troubles both before and after Hurricane Maria's devastation in the Caribbean.

But Donald Trump has a unique effect on the media that makes them forget anything that happened five minutes ago, ignore every past position, in their zest for finding the best spin that depicts Trump in the worst light.

On Monday night Trump sent off a series of tweets about the crisis in Puerto Rico.

Curiously, the fact checkers did not choose to check these tweets, because it was all true. (Though PolitiFact took the president to task for saying Maria had winds of 200 mph. The storm's maximum sustained winds were a measly 155 mph, with gusts of 195.)

What would do the most damage to Trump in this situation? The media quickly determined it was his "lack of empathy."

"Did President Trump Blame Puerto Rico for Its Hurricane Disaster?" asked People magazine.

Vanity Fair said the president "seemed more interested in blaming Puerto Rico for being hit by a hurricane than for explaining how his administration will aid the island's recovery."

The Daily Beast filed the tweets under "Not Good."

Nicolle Wallace, MSNBC's resident former "Republican" strategist who hosts the 4 p.m. hour, called Trump's tweets "victim-shaming" and "victim-blaming."

Her colleague Stephanie Ruhle was especially perturbed. On Tuesday she opened an interview on the disaster response efforts with FEMA administrator Brock Long, asking about the most pressing issue of the day: the president's tweets.

"Puerto Rico's debt crisis has absolutely nothing to do with the hurricane of a category 4 or 5 wiping out this island," she chided.

Ruhle brought it up again during a segment with host Katy Tur.

"Look at the president's tweets last night about Puerto Rico, he's borderline blaming them for their indebtedness," she said, before using the occasion to blast Trump for his own bankruptcy filings in the past.

"What on earth does that have to do with human hardship and need?" asked Harold Ford, the other Democrat on the panel. "It says a lot about where his head is on this thing. I'm glad you raised those points about his bankruptcies, and for him to raise that issue at this moment, tone-deaf doesn't begin to explain how out of touch he is."

"It also speaks to where he gets his information from," said Ruhle.

Indeed, Trump must be reading the Washington Post and listening to NPR.

"Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico could be hampered by long-standing financial problems that led the territorial government to file for a form of bankruptcy in May," the Post reported before the storm hit.

"Puerto Rico's Weak Infrastructure Creates Big Challenges For Recovery," declared NPR.

"Well before this year's series of historically powerful hurricanes, Puerto Rico already had a notoriously fickle power supply and crushing debt," NPR reported. "And Puerto Rico's weak infrastructure will make it difficult to provide the aid that it desperately needs."

After the storm, and after Trump's tweets, the Washington Post published an opinion article entitled, "Puerto Rico's bankruptcy will make hurricane recovery even harder."

All President Trump did was state the obvious. If the media followed their own stories, they'd know that.

Published under: Donald Trump , Media