President Donald Trump on Friday will tour the devastation wrought by a string of deadly tornadoes here, offering his support to Alabamians who lost relatives, homes and livelihoods in the recent twisters.
Trump will touch down just five days after four tornadoes — including one that delivered 170 mph winds — ripped through eastern Alabama, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more. His visit comes days after he approved an emergency disaster declaration for the area.
But the President’s visit is also drawing attention to an eyebrow-raising tweet he issued promising Alabama the “A Plus treatment,” suggesting his government perhaps provides different grades of treatment depending on the politics of the affected area.
“FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
The tweet cast a spotlight on the Trump administration’s mixed record in responding to natural disasters and, especially, disparities in the President’s comments about devastating storms, depending on his popularity there.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has largely responded to natural disasters across the country professionally and without considering the political leanings of the region in question. And Trump has quickly offered emergency declarations and federal government support to all areas affected by natural disasters.
But he has also unleashed a string of unseemly comments about recovery efforts in Puerto Rico — which does not vote in presidential elections — and California, a bastion of Democratic support.
In California, he falsely claimed forest mismanagement was responsible for the state’s deadly wildfires last fall, which have become more deadly and more frequent. Then in January, he threatened to cut off federal disaster relief funds to California if the state did not “get their act together.”
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen,” Trump tweeted. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disagraceful situation in lives & money!”
In the aftermath of deadly hurricanes in Puerto Ricoin 2017, the President repeatedly blamed local leaders for the slow pace of relief efforts and accused Puerto Rican politicians of attempting to use hurricane relief funds to pay down unrelated debts.
And just days after making his first visit to the island, Trump warned that his administration “cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders…in P.R. forever.”
Trump’s comments compounded questions about the slow pace of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, where the death toll surged into the thousands as water and electricity were not restored in parts of the country for months. Even as the Puerto Rican government revised its death toll to figures that exceeded Hurricane Katrina’s, Trump continued to praise his administration’s efforts and offered no indication there would be a review of the effort.
As his Monday tweet made clear, Trump is showing no indication of lashing out against Alabama in the way he did California or Puerto Rico.
Lee County, where Sunday’s deadliest tornado killed 23 people, supported Trump in 2016 by a 23% margin.