Eleven days after President Biden drew criticism for showing to brush off a question concerning the lethal wildfires in Hawaii with a “no remark,” a White Home spokeswoman mentioned on Thursday that the president by no means heard the query.
Olivia Dalton, the deputy White Home press secretary, made the clarification in response to a query from The New York Occasions. The White Home has battled accusations that its response to the deadliest U.S. wildfire in additional than a century has not been quick or forceful sufficient, and the controversy over Mr. Biden’s comment gained new life on Wednesday because it grew to become a Republican assault line in entrance of thousands and thousands of viewers on the G.O.P. presidential debate.
On Aug. 13, simply days after an inferno scorched the historic city of Lahaina on the island of Maui, one of many reporters touring with the president on trip in Rehoboth Seashore, Del., shouted the query about his response to the rising loss of life toll whereas Mr. Biden was coming into a automobile.
“He didn’t hear the query,” Ms. Dalton mentioned. “He completely didn’t say ‘no remark’ in relation to Maui. And in reality, he had already spoken to the nation about Maui at that time, along with being in each day contact with senior employees, FEMA and state officers as he marshaled a whole-of-government response to the fires.”
To critics, Mr. Biden’s comment appeared unusually insensitive for a president who prides himself on empathy, and emblematic of what they see as a muted response within the days instantly after the hearth. For days, the White Home defended the president’s response to the wildfires with out publicly addressing the obvious misunderstanding, even because the loss of life toll climbed to 115, with greater than 1,000 nonetheless lacking.
Republicans, particularly those that are searching for to unseat Mr. Biden, have seized on the feedback as proof of his dereliction of responsibility. Former President Donald J. Trump, the main contender for the Republican nomination, put out a video assertion the day after Mr. Biden’s reported remarks.
“To say ‘no remark’ is oftentimes high quality, however to be smiling once you say it, particularly towards such a tragedy as this, is completely horrible and unacceptable,” Mr. Trump mentioned.
Through the Republican main debate on Wednesday evening, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida used Mr. Biden’s response to deflect questions posed by the moderator about local weather change.
“Biden was on the seaside whereas these individuals had been struggling,” Mr. DeSantis mentioned. “He was requested about it and he mentioned, ‘No remark.’ Are you kidding me? As any individual that’s dealt with disasters in Florida, you’ve obtained to be activated. You’ve obtained to be there. You’ve obtained to be current. You’ve obtained to be serving to people who find themselves doing this.”
Mr. Biden broke away from his trip in Lake Tahoe to go to Maui on Monday, the place he was praised by native leaders for a swift federal response. However the frustrations of a minimum of some residents had been nonetheless uncooked.
Among the many crowds that lined the scorched streets of Lahaina as Mr. Biden’s motorcade drove via had been individuals holding indicators with messages corresponding to “Lahaina wants aid now.” At the least one merely mentioned: “No remark.”