President Trump on Thursday morning defended his decision to hold a political rally in Pennsylvania as Hurricane Michael ripped across the Southeastern U.S., saying he could not disappoint his many fans.
We had thousands of people standing on line, Trump said in a telephone interview with Fox & Friends. Its a great thing thats happening. Its a great movement in our country. I go make a speech in a 12,000-seat auditorium, and people start lining up two days early. I mean, literally, they bring tents.
The actual capacity of Erie Insurance Arena is 9,000. According to Erie News Now, the line outside the arena began forming on Wednesday morning, about 12 hours before the event.
We had thousands of people lined up by the time I had to make a decision, the president continued. So my decision was, do I want to tell people that were waiting 10 and 12 hours already that Im not coming? And I just thought it would be and were talking about thousands of people.
Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm at Mexico Beach, Fla., on Wednesday afternoon with winds of 155 mph, killing at least two people and causing catastrophic damage across the Florida Panhandle before barreling into Georgia.
We had it under great control, Trump said of the administrations response to the storm. Because FEMA and everything else. We had White House, we had on the plane, on Air Force One. I was totally monitoring. So I went in and made the speech and everybody was happy.
At the beginning of his speech at the Make America Great Again rally in Erie, Pa., on Wednesday night, Trump said he wanted to send our thoughts and prayers of our entire nation to everyone in the path of Hurricane Michael, especially in the Florida Panhandle, where its hitting and hitting hard.
But the president quickly reverted to full campaign mode, excoriating Democrats, Hillary Clinton and the news media.
Under fire over his administrations response in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria, Trump paid special attention to Hurricane Florence in September, and this week, as Michael gained steam, he hosted briefings with FEMA and Department of Homeland Security officials.
Trump, though, should understand those who criticize a president for choosing to campaign during a natural disaster because he was once one of them.
In November 2012, after Hurricane Sandy flooded the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Trump blasted then-President Barack Obama for campaigning with Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen.
Also on Thursday, Trump kept his lunch date with rapper Kanye West, who has been an outspoken supporter.
I like him a lot, Trump said of West. Hes been a friend of mine. Ive known him for a long time. Hes a very different kind of a guy I say that in a positive way. But he is a different kind of a guy.