Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday pushed back on President Donald Trump’s frequent characterization of wildfires, like those currently ravaging the West Coast, as simply a forest management issue.
“It’s been very clear that years of drought, as we’re seeing, whether it’s too much water and too much rain in parts of our country right now, or too little,” Garcetti told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “This is climate change and this is an administration that’s put its head in the sand.”
Slamming the administration as hosting “the last vestiges of the flat Earth society of this generation,” Garcetti called for “real action.”
“We need to reduce the carbon emissions that we have, and we need to make sure we can manage that water,” he added. “This is not about just forest management or raking. Anybody who lives here in California is insulted by that, quite frankly, and (Trump) keeps perpetrating this lie.”
Garcetti’s comments come a day after the White House announced Trump will visit California Monday. The President mentioned the wildfires during a speech at a rally Saturday night – after weeks of remaining largely silent on the historically devastating fires that have killed over two dozen people and burned more than 3 million acres in California – – but did not speak on the climate crisis, an omission that is often a point of contention among his critics.
Trump told rallygoers in Minden, Nevada, that the fires are about “forest management,” a characterization he has repeatedly offered of such blazes that has been previously criticized as inaccurate.
“It is about forest management, please remember the words, very simply, forest management, please remember, about forest management, and other things,” he said, also thanking the firefighters and first responders who are reacting to the fires.
Trump has pushed the familiar refrain for years while staying largely silent on climate change, despite scientists having long warned that fire seasons like this could happen, and that the more humans heat up the planet, the higher the odds in favor of the hot, dry conditions conducive to blazes.
After 2018’s deadly Camp fire, Trump said that the forest floor should have been “raked out.”
“They’re starting again in California,” Trump said at a rally in mid-August. “I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests – there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”
About 20% of California is made up of national forests, according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
Garcetti on Sunday also asked that Trump respond to issues in Democratic-leaning cities and states just as he would in Republican ones, saying he believes they are treated unequally.
“I think leadership at the very top needs to be earlier, stronger, and from the President I wish that we would get as much attention not based on an electoral map but just purely on being Americans,” Garcetti told Tapper. “And the need for leadership to be from the White House for all of America, you know whether it’s twin hurricanes on the Gulf Coast or fires here on the West Coast, we’re one nation.”
In a subsequent interview on “State of the Union,” White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro called Garcetti’s allegation that the administration acts with political motivation in offering federal aid to states affected by natural disasters “offensive,” pointing to the efforts the President took to assist the state of New York during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything that New York wanted, they got. So, please, Mr. Garcetti, take care of Los Angeles better than you are doing,” Navarro said.
Earlier, Garcetti acknowledged and thanked the Trump administration for declaring a State of Emergency in the state three weeks ago due to the fires.
“It’s easy to forget that it’s taken three weeks. I’m glad he’s coming, but we need much more help when we have firefighters dying on the line and Washington refuses to help states and refuses to help local governments that are the first responders to emergencies like this, it’s unconscionable.”
California wasn’t the only state Sunday voicing concerns over leadership on climate change in light of the wildfires.
“The President has said it’s all about raking the forest, it’s just a big and devastating lie,” Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos when asked about Trump’s comments.
Environmental changes such as drier forests “are consequences of a warming planet,” Merkley continued.
“We need to have a president now who follows the science on global warming,” he added.
Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told CBS News on Sunday that the wildfires should serve a a “wake-up call.”
“This is truly the bellwether for climate change on the West Coast,” Brown said. “And this is a wake-up call for all of us that we have got to do everything in our power to tackle climate change.”
This story has been updated with comments from Peter Navarro, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Kevin Liptak, Greg Clary, Kevin Bohn, Alison Main and Rebecca Grandahl contributed to this report.