Amidst what’s being referred to as a “humanitarian crisis” in Puerto Rico, a Fox News anchor challenged whether San Juan mayor Carmin Yulín Cruz was being dramatic when she stated people on the island were dying.
In a Saturday interview with Cruz, Fox News correspondent-at-Large Geraldo Rivera undermined the severity of the island’s suffering on the grounds that he had yet to personally witness anyone die from the devastation during his visit.
It’s worth noting that the reporter from the Republican-affiliated network conducted the interview on the same day President Donald Trump denounced Cruz for speaking out on federal inattention to the crisis.
“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,” the president tweeted Saturday morning. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Before his interview, Rivera remarked it was “sad” the mayor was “blaming” the president for the lack of aid.
During the conversation with Cruz, Rivera seemed intent on debunking a statement the mayor made during the Friday speech. In Cruz’s plea for governmental aid on Friday, she remarked: “People are dying.”
“There are all people at all municipalities literally starving, dehydrating,” Cruz said in her interview with the Fox reporter. “We have had our hospital try to go back to speed but then the electricity goes off and we have to do all the bacteria testing, which takes three to four days.”
When addressing the reason for the lack of resources being provided, the mayor said she believes organizations such as FEMA have their “heart in the right place” but seem to lack guidance. Rivera then cut her off to ask if she believed Trump was equally well-intentioned.
“I think the president needs get the information that he needs to get,” she said in a diplomatic response. “Apparently, he hasn’t been getting it or hasn’t been watching the news.”
Rivera then cut her off to address the Friday remarks that welcomed the president’s wrath:
“But are people dying?” Rivera asked. “I’ve been traveling around, I don’t see people dying. I spoke to the doctors, they say they saw 53 patients and they had a person who was septic, but nobody dying.”
“Dying is a continuum,” Cruz responded. “If you don’t get fed for seven, eight days, and you’re a child, you are dying. If you have 11 people—like we took out of a nursing home—severely dehydrated, you are dying.”
Rivera then proceeded to ask if the mayor wishes she rephrased her statement and whether her political affiliations inspired what he clearly believed to be an antagonistic exaggeration.
“That is the truth,” she said. “He who has eyes will be able to see it. He who has an open heart will be able to feel it. Those that prefer to be blinded to injustice, that’s their issue. I have no time for that.”
But Rivera remained unconvinced. Before ending the interview, he felt compelled to reiterate his belief Hurricane Maria has not yielded a notable number of deaths. He also implied, yet again, the mayor’s distressed plea to the Trump administration was politically motivated.
“That’s part one of my interview with the mayor who, as you heard, still claims that people are dying although the death count is 16, has been 16 since the storm. I could find no one dying,” Rivera said in wrapping up the segment. “She was highly critical of President Trump … I severely and profoundly lament that politics has introduced its ugly head; the situation is bad enough.”
On Friday, Stephen E. Flynn, the founding director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University, told Newsweek the ruinous state of the island is to be attributed to the stagnant death toll rate, which hasn’t been updated since last Monday.
“Sadly, the island is so badly damaged that there is no ability to communicate, no way to know the number of people who may have been killed in the storm itself with houses coming down, debris,” Flynn said.
“Anybody who’s already vulnerable and going for a long period of time without power and is reliant on medications, electronic monitoring, medical devices … as the days march on—and the days are marching on—they become a much more frail population,” he continued.
Also, Secretary Rodriguez-Mercado told the Miami Herald the actual death toll is higher than that which has been reported.