IN WHAT seems like a bizarre attempt to deflect criticism away from his unsubstantiated denials regarding Puerto Rico’s death toll in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Donald Trump has brought up a gaffe former president Barack Obama made 10 years ago.
“When President Obama said that he has been to ‘57 States’, very little mention in Fake News Media. Can you imagine if I said that…story of the year!” the US President tweeted.
The president also tagged Fox News broadcaster Laura Ingraham in his post, who discussed Mr Obama returning to the campaign trail in recent weeks to offer some harsh words about Mr Trump and his policies on her Friday night show.
Mr Trump’s tweet is referencing an embarrassing blunder the former Democratic Party leader made while on the campaign trail in 2008 as the leading contender for the party’s nomination.
While greeting voters in Oregon, Mr Obama said he had now visited “57 states” — when the US only has 50 states.
“It is wonderful to be back in Oregon. Over the last 15 months, we’ve travelled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii, I was not allowed to go to even though I really wanted to visit, but my staff would not justify it,” he said, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.
Ms Ingraham also resurfaced the blooper on her show.
Mr Obama did later quip about the awkward mistake, joking to reporters about his numeracy skills, but not before the media had already picked up on it and the then-senator was mocked online.
According to US political website The Hill, a campaign website at the time, Suitably Flip, even unveiled an American flag lapel pin with 57 stars to mock Mr Obama.
Mr Trump’s strange tweet comes amid backlash aimed at the president following his series of Twitter rants denying independent research which estimates nearly 3000 Puerto Ricans perished as a result of Hurricane Maria.
The Category 5 Hurricane pummelled the island in September last year and is is regarded as being the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico.
Mr Trump has rejected the death toll, claiming it has been inflated “by the Democrats” who added unrelated deaths to the toll from causes like old age “in order to make me look as bad as possible”.
But the joint investigation reflects how Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable fell victim to dire conditions created by the storms.
Disabled and elderly people were discharged from overwhelmed hospitals with bedsores that led to fatal infections. Medical oxygen ran out. People caught lung infections in sweltering private nursing homes and state facilities. Kidney patients got abbreviated treatments from dialysis centres that lacked generator fuel and fresh water, despite pleas for federal and local officials to treat them as a higher priority, according to patient advocates.
Then there was Ernesto Curiel, a diabetic who died of a heart attack after weeks of walking 10 flights twice a day to fetch insulin from his building’s only working refrigerator, and Alejandro Gonzalez Vazquez, who unable to obtain his antipsychotic medication committed suicide instead of boarding his flight back to the US mainland.