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Trump Stands By NFL Comments, Insists He Wasn't Distracted From Hurricane Relief

President Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday.
Alex Wong
Getty Images
President Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday.

President Trump defended his high-profile campaign against NFL players who kneel during the national anthem and insisted it hasn't distracted him from hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

"To me, the NFL situation is a very important situation," Trump said Tuesday at a news conference. "I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work."

Trump complained about protesting football players at a campaign rally in Alabama on Friday. Since then, he has tweeted or retweeted on the subject more than 20 times.

Meanwhile, nearly 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico continue to struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out the island's electric grid.

"The governor of Puerto Rico is so thankful for the great job that we're doing," Trump said, pointing to efforts by FEMA and the military.

The president argued that it has been more difficult to deliver food, water and other supplies to Puerto Rico than it was to reach victims in Texas or Florida after earlier storms.

"It's on an island in the middle of an ocean," Trump said. "You can't just drive your trucks there from other states."

Trump said he plans to visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands next Tuesday.

"The recovery process will be a very, very difficult one," Trump said. "We will get through this, and we will get through it together. We will be stronger. We will be bigger. We will be better."

Trump insisted that the government is "totally focused" on hurricane relief efforts, even as he devoted time and energy to halting the football protests — a campaign that drew widespread pushback from the NFL over the weekend.

"It doesn't take me long to put out a wrong and maybe we'll get it right," Trump said. "I think it's a very important thing for the NFL to not allow people to kneel during the playing of our national anthem."

The president spoke during a Rose Garden news conference following a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Asked about a controversial referendum Sunday on independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia, Trump said he hoped the country would remain united.

"I think it would be foolish not to," Trump said. "You're talking about staying with a truly great, beautiful and very historic country."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.