James Lee Witt corrects Trump on grade for Puerto Rico relief effort | Arkansas Blog

James Lee Witt corrects Trump on grade for Puerto Rico relief effort

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Donald Trump twice yesterday used James Lee Witt, Bill Clinton's widely hailed FEMA director and now in the private business of assisting in disasters, as a reference on the work he's done responding to hurricanes this year. Media, particularly on the conservative end, have echoed the Trump remarks that Witt gave him an A+.

But hold on: Witt wasn't talking about Puerto Rico. A colleague of Witt's told me yesterday Witt was talking about responses to Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, not the later Puerto Rico disaster from Maria.

Witt himself made that clear today in a prepared statement and also through his Twitter account. Said Witt's statement:

I was Director of FEMA for eight years and in that position responded to 350 Presidential disaster declarations.

Disaster responses are about people - not politics.

Shortly after the initial responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Florida and Texas, I was asked if I would give the Trump Administration and FEMA an A+ for those responses. I said I would, on both hurricanes. This was prior to hurricane Maria in Puerto Rica and the Virgin Islands. Even today it is yet to be determined whether the ultimate response to that hurricane will get an A, C or F or something else. As time goes by that will become apparent.

Disaster responses in the continental United States are made easier by our systems of highways, power repair and water supply and the large number of people and specialized equipment which can react with great speed.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin islands, and our citizens there, are not as easy to reach as Florida or Texas, and present special and substantial issues of planning, logistics, and shipping, offloading, housing, water and adequacy of medical facilities.


James Lee Witt
Former FEMA Director
The reports from Puerto Rico remain dire.


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