President Trump told Puerto Rico officials during a visit to the hurricane-ravaged island Tuesday that they should be “proud” of a death toll that is lower than that of other disasters like Katrina.
The awkward exchange took place during a briefing Trump attended minutes after touching down in San Juan.
“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 overpowering. Nobody's ever seen anything like this," Trump said.
He then paused and asked, “What is your death count?”
When told the number still stands at 16, Trump said, “Sixteen people versus in the thousands … you can be very proud."
Puerto Rico officials have indicated in recent days, though, that the situation remains dire for many residents.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has repeatedly criticized the president’s actions since the storm wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory, attended Tuesday’s briefing and was seen shaking Trump's hand.
Trump also took a swipe at the cost of the storm response Tuesday.
“You’re throwing our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives,” he said.