Donald Trump's treatment of Puerto Rico has been the subject of much criticism after he lambasted the mayor of San Juan on Twitter, gifted Hurricane Maria victims a golf trophy, told officials that victims of Hurricane Maria had "thrown our budget a little out of whack," and told Puerto Ricans that Maria was bad, sure, but not "a 'real catastrophe' like Katrina." To add to that list of cringe-worthy incidents, Trump launched paper towels at Puerto Rico hurricane victims during his visit. The video was shared on Twitter and Facebook where observers fumed at the president treating paper towels like basketballs in Puerto Rico.
The strange spectacle took place on Tuesday when Trump headed south to visit the locals who were devastated by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane has left Puerto Rico without electricity and a major portion of the region has no drinking water. Furthermore, few gas stations are operating while lines and more lines of people inundate them for gas, and locals are trying to get by on rationing food.
In the video, Trump can be seen surrounded by locals as he lifts a paper towel roll and shoots it in the air. The roll lands somewhere in the back of the audience. The president didn't stop there and reached for a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh roll until one man from the crowd presumably took a selfie with Trump.
Observers online were less than happy with Trump's basketball skills. One user said, "Oh my God. Trump is throwing single rolls of paper towel to [Puerto Ricans]. The crowd is catching it if it goes right to them. They deserve better. Humiliating."
Another user tweeted, "Trump once again shows the world how tactless and embarrassing he can be. I'm referring to that free paper towel throwing in Puerto Rico."
This user said, "[I] thought I couldn't hate Trump more until I saw the clip of him throwing paper towel rolls at Puerto Ricans like it was candy at a parade. It was degrading to [Puerto Rico] citizens. He has downplayed this disaster. To say he is disgusting is a ridiculous understatement."
Some journalists did a recap of Trump's general modus operandi toward post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. Editor for politics at The Daily Beast, Sam Stein, noted that Trump had "told Puerto Ricans to be proud "only" 16 [were] dead, complained [about] recovery cost, shot paper towels into crowd, told victim to 'have a good time.'"
Given the gravity of the situation in Puerto Rico, it seems understandable that people on the internet have taken issue with Trump's tone-deaf attitude toward the region and its people, including his Tuesday theatrics involving paper towel rolls shot in the air.
After Hurricane Maria destroyed towns in Puerto Rico, locals have expressed despair and dismay over the chaos that undid their homes and businesses. One victim named Eyleen Gonzales spoke with CNN and said, "I want to leave for the rest of my life. I don't want to know anything about Puerto Rico."
Over time, those who are close to the president have noted that Trump maintains keen attention toward perfect political optics. In other words, his presidency focuses on appearing impressive and efficient much like a smooth-running machine. That's what "optics" refers to, more or less, in this particular context. But in the case of Puerto Rico and Trump's record, it seems as if the president has scored some embarrassing visuals for the world to see. Tuesday's paper towel incident where he propelled rolls of paper into a crowd of recently-hit victims who seem bewildered and confused, is just an addition to the list.