President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the status of Hurricane Florence and preparations for its landfall, in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 11, 2018.


ORLANDO, Fla. — Puerto Rican leaders in Central Florida were outraged Tuesday over President Trump’s remarks in the Oval Office calling the federal response to Hurricane Maria “incredibly successful.”

“Tell that to the 3,000 people who died,” said Jose Rodriguez, the priest in charge at the Episcopal Church of Jesus of Nazareth in Azalea Park. “Tell that to the millions of people without power. Tell that to the 44 people huddled in hotel rooms today in Central Florida wondering if they’ll be homeless Saturday morning.”

Trump, speaking about preparations for Hurricane Florence as it barrels down on North Carolina, said his administration’s response to the September 2017 storm, which the Puerto Rico government said last month was responsible for 2,975 deaths and resulted in thousands of evacuees to Central Florida, was “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”

“I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success,” Trump said in a CBS News transcript, comparing the situation there with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. “Texas, we have been given A pluses for, Florida, we have been given A pluses for. I think in a way the best job we did was (in) Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that.”

Trump said the response was “the hardest one by far … because of the island nature” and the fact supplies had to be shipped in.

“The problem with Puerto Rico is that their electric grid and generating plan was dead before the storms ever hit,” Trump said. “It was a very hard thing to do because of the fact they had no electric before the storm hit, it was dead, as you probably know. So we’ve gotten a lot of reception for what we did in Puerto Rico.

“Speaking of Puerto Rico, they’re going to be affected pretty much pretty soon by something else on its way, is that right?” Trump said, possibly referring to Hurricane Isaac, currently moving south of the island into the Caribbean.

“He’s really something, this man,” said Jimmy Torres Velez, head of Boricua Vota, a voter outreach group. He called the president “an idiot.”

“This man is living in his own reality,” he said.

Torres Velez blamed much of the situation on the island today on the Trump administration’s “lack of preparation and the lack of heart, of having empathy, for the suffering of the people of Puerto Rico. … He should be impeached just for his lack of empathy.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, called Trump’s comments “obviously disgraceful and wholly inaccurate.”

But, he said, “we need to come together as a nation to help out Americans in North and South Carolina about to face a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. They should be the main focus right now.”

Trump, turning his thoughts to Florence, also warned of the storm’s power.

“They haven’t seen anything like what’s coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever,” Trump said. “It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet.”

By Gabe