The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee slammed President Trump's criticisms of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, calling them "abhorrent" and "baseless," and leveled under the "not so subtle veil of racism and sexism."
"The president's tweets today attacking the Puerto Rican people and the Mayor of San Juan are abhorrent, baseless, and are beneath the dignity of the office of the Presidency," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement Saturday. "Although unsurprising and quite predictable, it is pathetic that the president has decided to attack – with the not so subtle veil of racism and sexism – those desperately begging for his help in their hour of need. It is inexcusable that the President is in New Jersey, away from the White House, on the attack on Twitter when he only has one hour on his schedule today for hurricane response."
Trump is spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and in a series of tweets Saturday morning, the president lashed out at Cruz.
"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump," Trump said of Cruz.
The president went on to accuse the San Juan mayor and other Puerto Rican officials, who he did not name, of wanting "everything to be done for them."
"Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help," Trump tweeted. "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job."
Thompson said the president is using Puerto Rico and the federal government's response there to wage a positive public relations campaign, and said the Trump administration needs to do more to assist those living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis and they need our help now. Lives are on the line and people are dying," he said. "It is painfully clear that the federal response is woefully inadequate and Administration is not doing nearly enough. This is not a PR campaign that the President and the Administration can spin their way out of. We are a great nation and we spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on security and defense. Surely we can – and must – do more to help our own citizens."
Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, which hit the island as a Category 4 storm last week. The hurricane knocked out power for the entire U.S. territory of about 3.5 million people, and food, water and fuel has become scarce.
Many Democrats have said the president has been distracted this week by a feud he started last week with the NFL, and said Trump has spent far more time attacking the league and athletes than directing the federal government's response efforts in Puerto Rico.