President Trump on Wednesday told the American people that he had witnessed “first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey” despite only having visited Corpus Christi, which suffered little damage, and Austin, which suffered no damage, avoiding the hardest hit areas in Rockport and in the Houston area.
As the president was preparing to head to Missouri for a talk on tax reform, he tweeted: “After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!”
After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey,my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2017
Aboard Air Force One on the way to Texas on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stressed to reporters that the president was purposely staying away from the hardest hit areas to avoid disruptions in emergency relief efforts.
“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt any of the recovery efforts that are still ongoing, which is the reason for the locations we are going here today,” Sanders said.
Many reporters pushed back on the president’s false claim, including Austin-based investigative reporter J. David McSwane:
— J. David McSwane (@davidmcswane) August 30, 2017
— Todd J. Gillman (@toddgillman) August 30, 2017
While the president did meet with many state and federal officials during his trip, at no point did he meet with any actual victims who had lost property or relatives.
As Patch reported on Wednesday, there were several words that were not even spoken by the president during his four public appearances. Those words include: dead, death, homeless and displaced. He spoke more of crowd size and response than he did of those who had died.
When reporters asked Sanders what the president meant by “firsthand” at a briefing on Wednesday, she explained:
“He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster. He talked extensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest.”
“And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground — that certainly is a firsthand account.”
As Patch’s Colin Miner notes: Actually, for those who were describing their own experience, it was firsthand. For those, such as Trump, who listened to them describe their experiences, it was the very definition of “secondhand.”