President Joe Biden faced strong criticism from Hawaii House Minority Floor Leader Diamond Garcia, a Republican from Oahu, following his recent visit to the hurricane-devastated island of Maui. Garcia expressed that many locals felt President Biden’s actions were disrespectful, highlighting his struggles with names and a controversial incident where he appeared to fall asleep during a memorial for fire victims.
Garcia pointed out that the community is still grappling with the aftermath of fires that claimed over 100 lives and leveled the city of Lahaina. He mentioned President Biden’s initial “no comment” response to reporters when asked about the fires while vacationing in Sussex County, Delaware, which left many Mauians disheartened.
“The president came to Hawaii after the fires had destroyed the entire town of Lahaina. During his visit, which lasted less than six hours, he conducted a brief tour, held a press conference where he had difficulty pronouncing names, and attended an event with local families who had lost everything. Shockingly, he appeared to fall asleep while these families shared their heart-wrenching stories,” Garcia recounted.
Regarding the viral clip of Biden with his head bowed, some viewers claimed he was alert with his eyes open while his head was down.
Garcia expressed frustration, saying, “And this is our commander-in-chief.” He added that many Hawaiians questioned whether they were considered American citizens as they grappled with the aftermath of the fires.
He also mentioned the disappointment in the federal response, citing the FEMA pledge to provide only $700 to each household after the loss of their homes and land.
Garcia addressed President Biden’s comparison of the Lahaina wildfires to a kitchen fire at his New Castle County, Delaware, home in 2004, which has been debunked. He described it as a “slap in the face” for the local families who endured the devastating fires, highlighting a perceived lack of basic humanity.
Garcia emphasized that the criticism of President Biden on the island is not a partisan issue, despite Hawaii being a predominantly Democratic state. He noted that even as one of the few Republican members in a heavily Democratic legislative chamber (with a 45-9 majority), the president failed to offer what many Hawaiians considered genuine federal support.
Mayor Trent Conaway of East Palestine, Ohio, also criticized Biden’s response to a disaster zone in his region. He recounted dealing with a lack of urgency from the president following a Norfolk-Southern derailment that led to long-term toxic issues in Columbiana County, Ohio, and Beaver County, Pennsylvania. While Mayor Conaway mentioned Biden would be welcomed if he chose to visit the recovering community, he added that it may be “a little too late,” given the delays in response.