Biden called out for ‘special’ Maui PR drive after backlash over slow response

President Joe Biden delivered a “special” message to the people of Maui on Thursday morning in a pre-recorded video aired on Good Morning America – but for some, the president’s effort was too little too late.

Mr Biden, who has recently made a concerted effort to speak about Hawaii and outwardly express his sympathy and dedication, promised the people of Maui to stand beside them.

“We’ll be with you for as long as it takes, I promise you,” Mr Biden said in the message. “That’s why we took immediate action.”

The President went on to list a few of the ways he’s provided federal relief and assistance to Maui after wildfires left at least 111 people dead and thousands of others displaced.

“On Monday, Jill and I will travel to Hawaii to convey, in person, our grief and solidarity and commitment to the people of Maui,” Mr Biden said.

The message, which was part of Good Morning America’s “Maui Strong” broadcast, was a clear reminder from Mr Biden to people that his attention is directed toward Hawaii.

It is a strategic move by Mr Biden, who has faced backlash this past week over his public handling of the disaster.

Though the president has deployed federal assets and acted quickly in response to the deadly wildfires, his public-facing action came across to some as apathetic.

While rescue missions were underway in Lahaina this past weekend, Mr Biden was relaxing his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. When reporters questioned him about a planned trip to Hawaii, the president gave a vague response, saying he had “no comment”.

But in recent days, Mr Biden has publicly addressed Hawaii both on social media and in speeches he’s given across the country. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre represented the Biden administration’s efforts in Hawaii on CNN where she defended the president.

But online, some people called out Mr Biden for embarking on a PR campaign.

“The media’s willingness to assist Biden knows no bounds. Good Morning America broadcasts a "special message" from the President,” Tom Bevan wrote.

“Nobody forgets the ‘no comment’,” another Twitter user said.

Mr Biden will be in Maui on Monday to meet with local officials, survivors, volunteers and more. The exact itinerary of his visit is unclear at this time.