President Trump started his speech to the Values Voters Summit on Friday with a shoutout to victims of hurricanes that have recently ravaged states along the Gulf Coast and U.S. territories in the Caribbean.
“I will tell you, I left Texas, and I left Florida, and I left Louisiana, and I went to Puerto Rico, and I met with the president of the Virgin Islands,” he said. “These are people that are incredible people, they’ve suffered gravely. And we’ll be there.”
There’s just one problem — Trump is the president of the Virgin Islands. Residents of the island — which is the only majority-black U.S. territory — are American citizens.
The White House later corrected Trump’s error in the official transcript of his speech.
Official White House transcript corrects Trump’s reference to “president” of Virgin Islands pic.twitter.com/5NrEy8RDnN
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) October 13, 2017
Trump’s confusion about the status of the Virgin Islands comes a day after Energy Secretary Rick Perry mistakenly referred to Puerto Rico as “a country” during a House hearing. Like the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.
While the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has gotten more news coverage, the 103,000 residents of the Virgin Islands are also struggling with a humanitarian crisis. Earlier this week, Chalana Brown, a reporter with TV2 news on St. Croix, told Public Ratio International that most of the territory remains without power, many people are without shelter, and water-damaged homes are quickly filling with black mold.
Trump met with the governor of the Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, during his trip to Puerto Rico. In a letter Mapp sent to congressional leaders this week, he detailed how Hurricanes Irma and Maria — which hit 12 days apart and together dropped more than 20 inches of rain — “turned our green hillsides nearly black, stripped away leaves and ripped massive trees out by their roots.”
“We are at the U.S. government’s mercy,” Mapp wrote, adding that the storms destroyed both of the islands’ hospitals, along with four schools, two fire stations, and a police station.
Officials have pegged the damage at more than $2 billion. More from NBC:
[T]he terminals at Cyril E. King and Henry Rohlsen airports are heavily damaged. Many government offices are unusable, facilities of the judicial and legislative branches have been damaged, and government operations have been drastically affected.
There is no power on St. John and very limited power on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Virtually all of the power distribution infrastructure was destroyed, most telephone lines are down, and cell towers were destroyed. Most homes, hotels and resorts were destroyed or substantially damaged. There is also food scarcity.
Trump hasn’t yet toured the Virgin Islands — his meeting with Mapp occurred aboard a ship.
While Trump acknowledged hurricane victims during his speech on Friday, on Thursday he threatened in a tweet to pull “FEMA, the Military & the First Responders” out of Puerto Rico, citing the territory’s “financial crisis.”