There is lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water.
Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about it.
On Tuesday, the Republican presidential frontrunner declined to speak on the public health crisis that has thrust the city of almost 100,000 into both a state of emergency and the national spotlight. Asked about the disaster at a campaign event in Winterset, Iowa, Trump said that while it’s “a shame” that tens of thousands of people risk lead poisoning, “I shouldn’t be commenting on Flint.”
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorpNBC) January 19, 2016
While it may be hard to imagine that a presidential candidate doesn’t want to address a situation where four percent of a city’s children have lead in their bloodstreams, Flint’s water crisis has become politically tricky for Republicans. Criticizing Michigan’s handling of the mess means criticizing the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who has faced pressure for allegedly mishandling the crisis. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called him out at the most recent presidential debate; her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Snyder should resign.
“We’ve had a city in the United States of America, where the population, which is poor in many ways, and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water,” Clinton said at Sunday night’s debate. “And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled.”
For months up until the state of emergency was declared, Flint residents had been pleading with their state to do something about the mounting lead contamination issue, which stems from old lead service pipes that leached into the city’s water system. On Monday, Synder admitted that he hadn’t acted quickly enough to combat the problem, comparing the botched response to President George W. Bush’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina.
As Democrats have pounced on Synder, it could explain why candidates from the other party are not talking about Flint’s lead poisoning. Indeed, Trump said Snyder’s “got a very difficult thing going” before brushing off the issue and moving on. Other Republican candidates have been equally reticent — only Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has commented, only to say he didn’t know much about it. “That’s not an issue that right now we’ve been focused on,” he said Monday.