US President Donald Trump triggered a fresh wave of criticism during his first visit to Puerto Rico, that was recently ravaged by Hurricane Maria, over his "incredibly insensitive" remarks and "ridiculous" paper towel tossing. During a visit to Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, Trump handed out supplies to hurricane victims on Tuesday (3 October), including paper towels, flashlights and rice.
He also threw rolls of paper towels into the crowd of residents gathered to see him – a move that immediately made waves on social media, with people calling it "distasteful" and "offensive".
Over the past week, Trump has been heavily criticised over his administration's delayed and ineffective disaster response to the situation in Puerto Rico as compared to the responses in Texas and Florida. He was also slammed after he lashed out at the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, over the weekend over his criticism of the federal government's response to the crisis.
During the trip, Trump personally met with local officials and hurricane victims while surveying the damage in the aftermath of the catastrophic hurricane that killed at least 34 people and left millions without power. Home to 3.4 million American citizens, the cash-strapped territory is still struggling with food, water and fuel shortages.
"I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack because we spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that's fine," Trump said. "We saved a lot of lives."
He later drew a parallel between Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, comparing the death counts between the two.
"If you looked — every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody has seen anything like this," Trump said.
"What is your death count as of this morning, 17?" he asked, to which Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rosselló responded, "Sixteen people certified."
"Sixteen people certified versus in the thousands," he continued. "You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud."
Twitter immediately erupted with furious criticism and slammed the president's behaviour as "shameful" and shockingly lacking in empathy.
Democratic Representative Mark Takano tweeted, "President Trump's bizarre behaviour in Puerto Rico is more than cringeworthy. It reflects a lack of empathy & urgency that is deadly serious."
One Twitter user wrote, "Your behaviour in Puerto Rico today was an embarrassment to this country. Minimizing the deaths of US Citizens to praise yourself? Shameful."
"Everyday our president looks more and more like a clown," said another.