Trump raises eyebrows with comment about East Palestine mayor: ‘He’s very easy to find’
Former President Donald Trump marked his visit to East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday with an apparent comment about the physical appearance of Mayor Trent Conaway.
Mr Trump arrived in East Palestine nearly three weeks after the derailment of a train carrying hazardous materials upended life in the small Ohio town and left residents concerned about their exposure to dangerous chemicals and long-term safety in the town. The rail operator, Norfolk Southern, has mainly dodged questions about the derailment.
During a press conference at a fire station in the town, Mr Trump raised eyebrows with a remark about Mr Conaway – a registered Republican who expressed his desire prior to the former president’s visit that residents of the town not be turned into “political pawns.”
“I also want to recognise a man who has been working tirelessly for this community since the beginning of the nightmare,” Mr Trump said while looking for Mr Conaway in the crowd of people assembled behind him. “Trent? Where is Trent. He’s very easy to find.”
Mr Trump has a long history of making unapolgetically ableist and fatphobic remarks — and the comment about Mr Conaway was not the only remark he made Wednesday morning that struck some observers as off-colour.
Mr Trump also told a gaggle of media and onlookers to “have fun,” and mused that the town has “zero crime, no problems,” while looking out over the site where the train derailed.
Trump in E. Palestine: “Have fun everybody.” pic.twitter.com/Q1VFYXqkLx
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) February 22, 2023
The former president was in East Palestine to survey the damage done by the derailment and donate bottled water and cleaning supplies to residents.
Mr Trump’s visit to East Palestine comes in the midst of a debate about who should take the blame for the lax regulatory conditions that critics believe led to the derailment. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has absored a share of that blame from both progressives and conservatives, while Mr Buttigieg has pointed a finger at the Trump administration for failing to properly regulate the rail industry.
Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican who served in the role under Barack Obama, blasted Mr Trump’s visit as a “political stunt.”
“It’s clear that it’s a political stunt,” Mr LaHood told Politico. “If he wants to visit, he’s a citizen. But clearly his regulations and the elimination of them, and no emphasis on safety, is going to be pointed out.”
Mr Buttigieg plans to visit East Palestine on Thursday.