“I was ashamed of what was taking place because to me that was a very important moment,” Trump said during a press conference alongside Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “I don’t think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem.”
Trump denied being too “preoccupied” by the protests to respond effectively to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria’s destruction.
“I have plenty of time on my hands,” Trump said. “All I do is work. And to be honest, that’s an important function of working. It’s called respect for our country.”
“Many people have died ― many, many people,” he continued. “Many people are so horribly injured. I was at [Walter Reed National Military Medical Center] and I saw so many great young people and their missing arms and their missing legs ... They were fighting for our country, for our flag. They were fighting for our national anthem. For people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.”
Between Saturday and Monday, Trump tweeted a total of 17 times about the NFL, but not once about Puerto Rico. Several U.S. lawmakers pleaded with the president to focus on sending aid to the U.S. territory instead of bashing athletes on Twitter.
“Mr. President, instead of dividing the country over this you could give support to the 3.4 million Americans without power in Puerto Rico,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted Tuesday.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.