Both the White House and President Donald Trump seem to be a tad confused over the definition of the word, "firsthand." In a tweet published Wednesday, the president claimed he'd witnessed Hurricane Harvey's destruction "first hand [sic]." However, reporters on the ground in Texas and those traveling with the president have both refuted his claim, leading to an awkward explanation from the White House.
"After witnessing first hand [sic] the horror [and] devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!" the president tweeted Wednesday after visiting Austin and holding an impromptu rally in Corpus Christi on Tuesday. Yet neither Austin nor Corpus Christi has borne the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, and Trump did not meet with any Hurricane Harvey victims during his brief visit.
In fact, reporters who traveled to Texas with Trump refuted the president's claim. "I traveled with the President yesterday," Agence France-Presse reporter Andrew Beatty tweeted Wednesday, shortly after Trump's tweet went live. "Personally, I would not claim to have seen Harvey's horror and devastation first hand [sic]."
"Our reporter on the scene with the president throughout his time in Corpus Christi saw no horror or devastation along the way," Todd J. Gillman, the Washington bureau chief for Dallas News, has said in an article discrediting the president's claim.
When asked by pool reporters about the president's seemingly exaggerated tweet, the White House appeared to struggle to provide an explanation. "[The president] met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly said Wednesday. Sanders claimed Trump had "talked extensively" with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and mayors from several "local towns that were hit hardest" and had received been talking to a lot of people on the ground. "That certainly is a firsthand account," Sanders reportedly told pool reporters.
Except, it's not.
What Sanders described — receiving information about an event from intermediaries — is actually the very definition of a secondhand account. The word firsthand is defined as "obtained by, coming from, or being direct personal observation or experience." This means that without having seen the massive flooding in Houston, the Texas town hit hardest by Harvey, for himself, the president could not have witnessed firsthand "the horror and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey."
But while there are numerous reasons for the president not to visit Houston as relief and recovery efforts were just getting underway, many have expressed confusion at why the president felt the need to exaggerate. The president is expected to make a second trip to Texas on Saturday.