WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he was not preoccupied with his fight with the NFL over the weekend at the expense of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Trump was asked Tuesday about criticism that he was paying too much attention to the fight over football players kneeling during the national anthem. He said he has ‘‘plenty of time’’ on his hands, adding that all he does is work. Speaking out against the protests, he said, amounts to ‘‘respect for our country’’ and is part of his job.
Trump has come under criticism that his administration responded too slowly to the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria knocked out power to virtually the entire island.
He said he is visiting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday.
The island has been coping with shortages of food, drinking water, electricity and various forms of communication after Hurricane Maria struck earlier this month.
Trump said Tuesday is the earliest he can visit without disrupting recovery operations, and that he may also visit the US Virgin Islands.
Top Republican leaders in Congress had earlier promised help for the devastated island, with Speaker Paul Ryan calling it a ‘‘humanitarian crisis.’’
Both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that they are working with the Trump administration and awaiting word on what resources and disaster relief will be needed.
Hurricane Maria has left millions of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico without food, water and housing. Ryan told reporters: ‘‘They need our help and they are going to get our help.’’
Ryan said the $15 billion Congress passed early this month for hurricanes Harvey and Irma also applied to Puerto Rico.
McConnell said recovery efforts will not be easy.