Politifact Makes up False Trump Quote to Smear President on Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts

Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize winner that solicits donations with the self-serving pitch, “In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts,” made up a quote and attributed it to President Donald Trump to make their claim that his criticism of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her failure to get relief workers working was “Not Correct”.

In a report that examines three tweets by Trump about Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter reported on a tweet posted Saturday morning by Trump that said, “…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They…”

Politifact ignores its own reporting elsewhere in the article that by Saturday morning it had been well reported that upward of 10,000 shipping containers of relief supplies were stuck on the Port of San Juan dock because drivers were not showing up. Various excuses were being made, such as communications were down, trucks and fuel weren’t available and roads were hard to traverse, yet the bottom line was the drivers weren’t showing up even a week after the hurricane had passed and the mayor of San Juan wasn’t doing anything effective (if doing anything at all) about it.

There is an unconfirmed report the Teamsters local was on strike (which would seem to be contradicted by the Teamsters national recruiting truck drivers for the San Juan port.)

A report by NPR on Thursday (which Politifact links to in another part of the report) stated the truckers union was having issues with the roads being blocked, but added that excuse was disputed by mayors from far-flung towns who are traversing those roads and criticized the desperately needed aid being held back in San Juan.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration tells NPR that the government is working with the truck driver’s union to find a solution for driving with downed power lines and damaged roads, and the Department of Defense says it has sent teams to work on clearing blocked streets.

Not everyone believes roadways are the problem. Roberto Ramirez Kurtz is the mayor of Cabo Rojo in southwestern Puerto Rico, which is about as far away from San Juan as you can get on the island — a 2 ½ to 3-hour drive.

He says more than 5,000 homes were completely destroyed in his town, and people are running out of water and insulin. But aid and resources, “they’re staying in San Juan,” he says.

Kurtz was in San Juan to ask for help, and having made the trip himself, he doesn’t believe that road conditions are an obstacle. “The roads are open,” he says. “I’ve been able to come here. So why haven’t we used this to [transport goods] west?”

Meanwhile Juan Carlos Garcia, the mayor of Coamo in the south of the island, says the only aid his town has received is five pallets of water. “The state never came to provide diesel to the hospital,” he says. People are running low on food supplies and hysteria is growing, he says.

He, too, says the roads are clear — and that he’s in San Juan to ask why no aid has reached his town.

Along with road conditions, authorities and shipping firms also say diesel shortages are to blame…”

Politifact accurately quoted Trump’s tweet at first, “…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….” but then turns to FEMA Director Brock Long’s criticism of Mayor Cruz to twist the focus from Trump’s criticism of her failure to get workers working to her personally working hurricane relief, leading to a summation that Trump is wrong to say the mayor hasn’t pitched in which is not what he said.

Politifact ends the report with a graphic that fabricates a quote from Trump in order to bolster the false summation, “San Juan Mayor and others have not pitched in with Puerto Rico relief.” Politifact doesn’t use quotation marks, but right below included in the graphic are the words “in a tweet – Saturday, September 30,2017” leaving the impression that the arbiter of truth Politifact was quoting the tweet by Trump. The graphic is stamped with Politifact’s logo.

The text of the Politifact report:

“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”

Trump’s claim here is basically unsupported. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz got on Trump’s bad side when she criticized Washington’s response and said, “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”

Trump shot back with a tweet aimed at Cruz. Leadership in a crisis can be hard to judge, but we can look at whether the mayor of San Juan and others were unable to get their workers to help.

FEMA administrator Brock Long had some good things to say about Puerto Ricans in general, but was less complimentary about Mayor Cruz.

“The Puerto Ricans are pulling their weight,” Long said on This Week on ABC News Oct. 1. “I mean, I think they’re doing what they can.”

But Long suggested that Cruz had not spent as much time as she should have with FEMA staff.

“The problem is, if you’re not connected into that joint field office, then you don’t understand commanders’ intent,” Long said. “You don’t understand the successes of what’s been done versus what needs to be done where the gaps are.”

Reporting on the ground paints a different picture of Cruz. Washington Post reporters described a woman out in the streets connecting with residents. The city delivered tanks of water to neighborhoods. With the electric grid in shambles, city workers, including Cruz, handed out solar-powered lanterns.

Coordination between the San Juan mayor’s office and FEMA might have fallen short, but that is not the only way to measure that mayor or any other mayor’s effort to help provide relief.

Trump is on thin ice with this claim.”

Irony is added to the report by that section being just below Politifact defending CNN and NBC from Trump’s accusation of fake news, “Fake News CNN and NBC are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to “get Trump.” Not fair to FR or effort!”, which Politifact labeled, “Wrong”, with the summation, “As he often does, Trump applied the fake news tag liberally. But there is no indication that the reporting was inaccurate.”

The third part of the Politifact report analyzed this tweet by Trump which said, “…want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

Politifact grudgingly concluded Trump was accurately reporting a FEMA statement but couldn’t give their complete approval.

“At the end of the day, no federal department could give us definitive figures, which makes this claim soft around the edges. But FEMA stands by its number and until we know more, we can say it’s in the ballpark.”

Politifact used similar graphics with the Politifact logo to quote/summarize Trump’s other tweets but the one about Mayor Cruz is just flat out made up.

And of course Politifact’s lie gets pushed out into social media where it inflames anti-Trump hatred and harms the morale of Puerto Rico families in the States worried about relief efforts.

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