On Thursday morning, President Trump tweeted that “[a]fter witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!”
After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey,my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2017
Trump was referring to the trip he took the day before to Texas, where he held a news conference with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and then briefly addressed supporters atop a fire truck in Corpus Christi. He praised the size of the crowd and admired the “turnout.”
Breaking from precedent established by recent presidents when they’ve visited the sites of disasters, Trump didn’t visit any of the hardest-hit areas, and he didn’t meet with any Harvey victims.
On Thursday evening, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to clarify Trump’s tweet about “witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.” Sanders’ response acknowledged that the president lied, as she cited a number of second-hand accounts.
“He met with a number of local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster,” Sanders said. “He talked extensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground — that certain is a firsthand account.”
Meanwhile, a photo posted on Trump’s Instagram page showed the president watching radar in a conference room, along with the text of his “[a]fter witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey” tweet.
Merriam-Webster defines “firsthand” as “obtained by, coming from, or being direct personal observation or experience.” None of the sources Sanders cited rise to that level. But “secondhand” is defined as “received from or through an intermediary” — exactly the sort of thing described in her response.