The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday defended her request for federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Maria, hours after President Donald Trump lashed out at her for asking for assistance and accused her of unnecessarily criticizing him.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Carmen Yulin Cruz reiterated that Puerto Rico needed more help and said her previous critiques of the administration’s response had not been intended as a personal slight.
“Actually, I was asking for help,” she said. “I wasn’t saying anything nasty about the president.”
“I will continue to do whatever I need to do, say whatever I need to say, compliment the people I need to compliment, and call out the people that I need to call out,” she added. “This isn’t about me. This isn’t about anyone. This is about lives that are being lost if things do not get done properly real quickly.”
Trump had tweeted criticisms of Cruz earlier in the day, saying she demonstrated “poor leadership ability.”
“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he wrote.
“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” Trump added, noting how there were now 10,000 federal workers on the “totally destroyed” island who were “doing a fantastic job.”
Trump also criticized CNN and NBC for their coverage of the relief effort.
He tweeted again on Saturday afternoon, claiming the media was misrepresenting aid work taking place in Puerto Rico.
The president’s posts were an apparent reaction to the criticism that Cruz has leveled at his administration in recent days over its handling of the fallout from the natural disaster, which has claimed at least 16 lives since ripping through the island more than a week ago.
Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of homeland security, on Thursday enthusiastically praised how federal authorities had reacted to the aftermath of the storm.
“I know it’s a hard storm to recover from,” she said. “But I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.”
Cruz, however, called that statement “irresponsible.”
“This is a people are dying story. This is a life or death story,” she said on Friday’s broadcast of CNN’s “New Day.” “This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water.”
Cruz also used a news conference at a distribution center on Friday to blast the response and ask Trump to step up efforts to get aid delivered to islanders in need.
“We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles,” she said. “Mayday! We are in trouble.” She has responded to Trump’s tweets by saying that the one goal was “saving lives.”
Critics have also called out Trump for devoting so much time to attacking NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem as the relief effort was struggling to get under way.
Trump said Saturday that he would visit Puerto Rico with first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday.
This article has been updated with comments Cruz made Saturday morning.