The White House has responded after both Democrats and Republicans criticized President Biden, who said he had ‘no comment’ on the rising death toll from the destructive Hawaiian wildfires during his weekend beach getaway in Delaware.
One Hawaii Democrat called the president’s response ‘shocking’ and out of character. While a congressional Republican accused Biden of ‘actively ignoring what is happening in Hawaii and really helping Hawaii.’
A White House spokesperson pushed back on the criticism and told Fox News Digital that the Biden administration was using the ‘whole-of-government’ to respond to the deadly fires, which included Biden mobilizing federal assistance from various departments and agencies.
‘The Biden-Harris Administration has mobilized a robust whole-of-government response effort to support immediate and long-term rescue and recovery efforts in Maui, Hawaii,’ the White House spokesperson said.
The statement continued: ‘Since the onset of the horrific fires in Maui, dozens of Federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security through FEMA and the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense through the Navy and Army, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have been working with state and local partners on the ground to assess ongoing needs and providing resources and personnel to support response efforts.’
On Sunday, Bloomberg White House correspondent Justin Sink first reported that Biden had nothing to say in response to a question about the death toll.
‘After a couple hours on the Rehoboth beach, @potus was asked about the rising death toll in Hawaii ‘No comment,’ he said before heading home,’ Sink reported on X.
Video footage of the exchange released later appeared to corroborate Sink’s account.
Despite the apparent halfhearted remark, President Biden responded ‘within hours’ of Hawaii officials reporting the fire, according to a White House fact sheet.
‘Last Thursday, within hours of the devastating fires, President Biden signed a Major Disaster Declaration for Hawaii, and as President Biden told [Hawaii] Governor Josh Green, the Federal Government stands ready to provide additional assistance to ensure the state recovers. This weekend, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell and U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman surveyed catastrophic damage on the island and hosted a local press conference to reiterate the Administration’s commitment to supporting impacted communities, however long it may take.’
There are also nearly 500 federal personnel deployed to Maui as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, who are supporting maritime search and rescue operations, and U.S. Army helicopters, who are supporting fire suppression efforts on the Big Island, the White House said.
During a speech in Wisconsin, President Biden said Tuesday he and first lady Jill Biden would visit Hawaii to see the damage and visit with local officials.
The spokesperson also defended the Biden administration’s decision to send additional aid to Ukraine, which continues to have bipartisan support in Congress — amid the destruction to Hawaii.
‘The recent supplemental package reflects urgent needs through the end of the year both with respect to national security and critical domestic areas like disaster relief. We’re grateful for the strong bipartisan support for Ukraine since Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion, and we are confident that support will continue as we work together to support the Ukrainian people as they bravely stand up to Russia’s brutal war of aggression and defend their country,’ their statement said.
As of Wednesday morning, the death toll from the devastating Maui fire reached 106.