HOUSTON – One day after President Donald Trump's comments about Texans going out on boats to watch Hurricane Harvey rubbed some people the wrong way, the White House addressed his remarks after an inquiry by KPRC 2 News.
White House spokesperson Helen Ferre responded to KPRC2 with the following statement:
“The 16,000 people the President was referring to were those saved thanks to the heroic efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard. In last year’s hurricane season, the U.S. Coast Guard saved almost 12,000 lives and in addition to that, nearly 9,000 were saved by FEMA search and rescue teams. The President is aware that the great people of Houston worked together to help each other. Some went out in their boats to save others who were trapped in their homes and ultimately needed assistance by authorities. The great community spirit demonstrated by the good people of Houston is heralded by this administration.”
Trump Wednesday, while praising the work of the United States Coast Guard, took what could be interpreted as a slight jab at the city of Houston and its residents.
Trump said the rainfall in Texas during Hurricane Harvey was record-setting and that the country getting hit by "three devastating major hurricanes" within a month was a unique situation.
Trump said the help he got from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was especially useful.
"Our entire government leapt into action to coordinate the response, along with the state and local leaders," Trump said. "And we did have a lot of help from some really great governors — Florida, Texas. A lot of great people helped us, and it was great."
The Trump comment in question came later in his remarks, while he was praising the Coast Guard for its thankless work during the natural disasters.
"I also want to recognize the Coast Guard, our other military services. I have to tell you, the Coast Guard saved 16,000 people," Trump said. "And I think — you know, honestly, they don’t get enough credit in many ways."
Trump seemed to insinuate that Texans who went out in boats to watch the hurricane made a bad decision and may have caused the Coast Guard to perform more rescue operations.
"I think this year the Coast Guard, maybe in terms of increased branding — the brand of the Coast Guard has been something incredible what’s happened," Trump said. "Saved 16,000 people, many of them in Texas, for whatever reason that is. People went out in their boats to watch the hurricane. That didn’t work out too well. That didn’t work out too well."
Harris County Sheriff responds to comments
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who was on the frontline during the storm, responded Thursday to Trump’s comment on national TV.
In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Gonzalez said he didn’t notice any gawkers. He said he say lots of people stepping up to help people in need and that Trump might have anecdotally heard that piece of misinformation from someone else.
“I’m not sure where he did (see that) but the stakes are high and I’m concerned that his basic lack of understanding what occurred here could harm his administration’s ability to help suffering Americans that are depending on assistance,” he said. “And so I hope that we can make sure that he gets the accurate information and going forward that’s he’s aware of what’s happening and the help that we still need down here.”
Gonzalez went on to offer an invitation to Trump in the future to see how seriously Texans prepare for such events.
“I’d be happy to invite him to ride out the next hurricane on a Jon Boat in Galveston bay the next time one approaches again,” Gonzalez said.