NARRATIVE BUILDING: Media Try To Treat Puerto Rico As ‘Trump’s Katrina’


On Monday, media commentators began building a narrative: President Trump was neglecting aide to disaster-stricken Puerto Rico in favor of jabbering nonsensically about the NFL. Here are just a few examples of the phenomenon:

Puerto Rico is indeed a disaster area after Hurricane Maria. Governor Ricardo Rossello says the entire island is in a virtual state of emergency. We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,” Rossello explained. “Otherwise, there will be … a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.”

Fully 95% of wireless cell towers are out of service; a dam is about to break; virtually all major roads have been blocked; 10 people are dead; hospitals are operating without running water or electricity; virtually none of the 1.6 million inhabitants of the island have light or air conditioning.

But that has nothing to do with Trump’s NFL tweeting. Trump could indeed be doing more publicly to raise awareness and charity dollars for Puerto Rico. But there have been few complaints about federal response thus far. Rossello has asked for more help from the Defense Department and wants Trump to waive the island’s requirements for paying back disaster relief funding. But he also praised Trump’s promises before the disaster and said that Trump’s Federal Emergency Management Agency is doing a good job. FEMA is currently bringing satellite telephones to every town and city in Puerto Rico. Local leaders, too, have been praising the federal response. Here’s The Guardian:

Rossello and other officials praised the federal government for planning its response before the storm hit, a contrast with what Puerto Rico has long seen as the neglect of 3.4 million Americans in a territory without a vote in Congress or the electoral college. “This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination,” said Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Washington.

So no, this isn’t Hurricane Katrina. Actually, even Hurricane Katrina wasn’t Hurricane Katrina — the federal response there was largely hampered by local and state authorities. But don’t look for the media to tell the truth rather than using Hurricane Maria as “Trump’s Katrina.”