Biden toured devastation from wildfires nearly two weeks after the historic beach town of Lahaina was gutted by a fire that began in the middle of gale-force wind gusts. The flames spread rapidly, forcing many residents to jump into the ocean to survive. The death toll from the fire has climbed to 115 with an estimated 800 people still unaccounted for.
Maui residents at times greeted Biden’s motorcade, which included dozens of vehicles, with cheers, while many others met the president with obscenities over his treatment of the tragedy so far, according to the Associated Press.
Videos surfaced on social media showing the reactions of some of the residents upset with Biden. In one video, a group of people can be heard chanting “f*** Joe Biden” as the president and first lady walked down a street.
Hawaii is not happy with Joe pic.twitter.com/Sp3SARvuML
— Ben Whedon (@whedonwins) August 22, 2023
In another, a group met the president’s motorcade with middle fingers and more obscenities directed at the president.
“Here he comes after 13 days,” one person says.
“Wow, he’s finally here. Wow, yeah, thanks for nothing,” another says.
🚨 Maui residents gave Joe Biden a warm welcome to Hawaii today.
“Here he comes after 13 days.”
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) August 22, 2023
On resident set up a sign saying “Traitor Joe Must Go” in his front yard.
Maui resident has a pointed message for Biden: "Traitor Joe Must Go!" pic.twitter.com/x6ZlBFkDHu
— Kyle Becker (@kylenabecker) August 22, 2023
In remarks on Monday, the president attempted to empathize with islanders by recalling a time when his own home was scarred by fire.
“I don’t want to compare difficulties, but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it’s like to lose a home,” he said before recounting a time when a lightning strike set his house on fire. “To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my ’67 Corvette, and my cat,” he joked.
Biden tells Maui wildfire victims, "I don't want to compare difficulties, but…" then tells a made up story about losing his house to a fire.
According to a 2004 AP report, it was “a small fire…contained to the kitchen” that “was under control in 20 minutes.” pic.twitter.com/DNY0Tyatg7
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 22, 2023
Biden promised residents of Maui that the federal government would assist in recovery “for as long as it takes,” according to the Associated Press.
“We’re going to rebuild the way the people of Maui want to rebuild,” Biden said.
Hawaiian Electric, Hawaii’s main utility that supplies power to 95% of the state, is facing scrutiny over the company’s priorities in the years leading up to the fire. The company is reportedly talking with California utility giant PG&E over how it restructured following the 2018 Camp Fire that all but destroyed the town of Paradise.
Lawsuits filed over the wildfire have accused Hawaiian Electric of being at fault for its aging and degraded infrastructure, and that the utility knew its infrastructure was a fire risk. The utility has pledged to complete its own investigation into the fire, as well as cooperate with the Hawaii attorney general’s.
“We will be doing our own investigation. The state will be doing an investigation. We will cooperate fully in that. I think we all believe it’s important to understand what happened, and I think we all believe it’s important to make sure it never happens again,” Hawaiian Electric CEO Shelee Kimura said last week.