In a speech delivered at the Values Voter Summit on Friday, President Trump Trump mentioned he'd met the U.S. Virgin Islands' president, apparently failing to remember that as president of the United States, he is also president of the organized and unincorporated U.S. territory. Oops.
"We also stand with the millions of people who have suffered from the massive fires which are right now raging in California and the catastrophic hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands," President Trump said Friday in a keynote speech delivered at the Values Voters Summit, an annual political conference for social conservatives, in Washington, D.C. "And I will tell you I left Texas, and I left Florida, and I left Louisiana, and I went to Puerto Rico, and I met with the president of the Virgin Islands."
Well, that's a little embarrassing. The president went on to say these "are incredible people" who have "suffered gravely" but that America would "be there" for them.
"We're going to be there," Trump said. "Really, it's not even a question of a choice. We don't even want a choice. We're going to be there as Americans and we love those people and what they've gone through."
President Trump then claimed "their states and territories are healing and they're healing rapidly," adding that Americans had responded with goodness, generosity, and bravery in the wake of the terrible tragedies of the past several weeks.
It seems Trump was confusing himself, the actual president of the U.S. Virgin Islands, with Kenneth Mapp, who serves as the territory's governor. Trump did meet with Gov. Mapp earlier this month. An official White House transcript of the president's speech corrected Trump's use of the word "president" to read "governor."
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump met with Mapp aboard the Navy's amphibious assault ship, the USS Kearsarge, on Oct. 3 to discuss how recent hurricanes had impacted the island territory. At the time, Mapp expressed gratitude for President Trump's response on behalf of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to Newsweek, however, Gov. Mapp and his team appear to be carefully steering clear of President Trump's latest gaffee. "It doesn't serve our purpose to participate in the national hoopla over whether Donald Trump is making competent comments or not," Gov. Mapp's deputy communications director, Sam Topp, told Newsweek. "I would not want to in any way involve the governor of the Virgin Islands in any national dispute in the media about what the president knows about the relationship between the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Interestingly, this isn't the first time a member of Trump's administration has appeared confused about U.S. territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands. Earlier this week in a House Energy and Commerce hearing, Energy Secretary Rick Perry referred to Puerto Rico as a country. Puerto Rico, like the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a U.S. territory.
"That is a country that already had its challenges before this storm," Perry said in reference to Puerto Rico. Florida Rep. Kathy Castor corrected the energy secretary, who it's worth noting had correctly referred to Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory earlier in the hearing.
But the Trump administration's recent gaffes regarding U.S. territories may be more hindrance than help to an administration already struggling with voter approval. According to an Oct. 12 Quinnipiac University poll, 55 percent of voters don't think President Trump or his administration have done enough to help Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. That same poll also showed 52 percent of voters feel President Trump does not care about the problems facing Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane.
The U.S. Virgin Islands were pummeled by a Category 5 Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6 resulting in widespread catastrophic damage. Just two weeks later Hurricane Maria ripped over the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix, bringing heavy rains and violent winds.