President Biden raised eyebrows with a joke about the "hot ground" in Maui during his visit to address the harrowing and devastating wildfires that have taken 112 lives in the area.
On Monday, President Biden, along with First Lady Jill Biden, arrived in Maui to deliver remarks about the wildfire aftermath. The couple Neet with local officials and during the exchange, Biden saw and stopped to pet a search and rescue dog, which was wearing some boots.
This prompted the President to crack a joke, saying, “You guys catch the boots out here? That’s some hot ground, man.”
The remark seemed to fall flat with many users of social media, who found the comment to be insensitive, particularly considering the devastating circumstances.
Harrison Metal founder Michael Dearing was disappointed, ‘Nothing says leadership like yukking it up with the human-remains-sniffing dogs.’
Nothing says leadership like yukking it up with the human-remains-sniffing dogs.
— Michael Dearing (@mcgd) August 21, 2023
Conservative commentator Robby Starbuck tweeted, ‘Imagine your loved one burned to death less than a month ago and when Biden finally visits after his TWO vacations, he jokes around about how hot the ground is. Sick.’
Imagine your loved one burned to death less than a month ago and when Biden finally visits after his TWO vacations, he jokes around about how hot the ground is. Sick. https://t.co/BiAVKb0ou2
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) August 21, 2023
The White House pushed back against the criticism of the President’s joke, and defended the remark. Deputy press secretary and senior communications advisor, Andrew Bates, said “He’s petting one of the dogs that’s working hard searching for remains, so survivors who’ve lost loved ones can have closure. This criticism is classless and stupid.”
Biden had previously faced criticism for his response to the wildfires. He originally responded in a statement on Aug. 14 saying "no comment" to the rising death toll, then proceeded to plan and take two vacations before finally visiting the area Monday.
Maui county Mayor Richard Bissen recently revealed that approximately 850 people are still missing.
Ella Sable Tacderan, a resident of Maui, recently spoke out on CNN about the lack of effort from the White House to help them, saying, “It’s really affecting me because, where’s the President? I mean, aren’t we Americans, too? We’re part of the United States. Why are we getting put in the back pocket? Why are we being ignored?”
The White House has yet to respond to the questions posed by Tacderan, but residents hope they will soon hear from the President about a plan moving forward to help with the recovery.