Comments about the U.S. Virgin Islands start at the 4:20 mark
In a speech today at the Values Voter Summit, Trump told the audience that he had “met with the president of the Virgin Islands” while speaking about losses suffered by the Caribbean islands after a spate of strong hurricanes last month.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are in fact a territory of the United States, over which Trump presides, making him the territory’s president. The islands are lead by Governor Kenneth Mapp.
The Values Voter Summit is a annual far-right event that conservative pundit Sean Hannity has called “the premier conservative event now in the country.” According to its website, it was founded in 2006 in order to “provide a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong. It has drawn over 3,000 plus attendees from around the nation and foreign countries.”
In his speech for the forum, the president said, “I went to Puerto Rico, and I met with the president of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people. They’ve suffered gravely, and we’ll be there. We’re gonna be there. We have, really, it’s not even a question of a choice … we’re going to be there as Americans.”
Trump is the first sitting president to address the summit, which has been widely condemned by leftist activist groups. President and CEO of the LGBTQ activist group GLAAD Sarah Kate Ellis said that the summit was a “convening of fringe groups united around discrimination against LGBTQ Americans and serves as a place for them to actively strategize on rolling back and erasing hard-fought LGBTQ progress.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has made similarly disparaging remarks, classifying the summit as a “hate group” due to its “relentlessly [vilification of] LGBT people – portraying them as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to children and the nation.”
Trump’s Virgin Islands misstep come just a day after Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry mistakenly called Puerto Rico a country during a House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting. It is also a U.S. territory.
“[Puerto Rico] is a country that already had its challenges before this storm,” Perry told Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. The congresswoman corrected Perry, pointing out that Puerto Rico is, in fact, a U.S. territory, prompting the energy secretary to apologize for misspeaking.
The two flubs have added fuel to the debate surrounding the U.S. response to hurricane damage in the island territories, which many, including Trump’s fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, say has been inadequate. According to a recent Quinnipac University poll, 55 percent of Americans believe the government has not done enough in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—on par with George Bush’s approval ratings after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.
The Bush administration was the subject of several congressional inquiries regarding its handling of the crisis that later resulted in a large, congressionally-mandated staffing turnover.