FIRST ON FOX: The Democratic candidate for Mississippi governor crashed Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ tour of tornado damage to campaign after storms ravaged the state and killed at least 25 people.
Reeves, alongside other invited officials that included federal lawmakers and Biden administration officials, traveled to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, to survey the damage caused by the deadly tornado last week.
Democrat gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley and his campaign staff also traveled to Rolling Fork – outside of his official constituency as Northern District commissioner – where his campaign staff took pictures of him and posted them to his campaign Twitter account.
RECOVERY EFFORTS CONTINUE IN TORNADO RAVAGED MISSISSIPPI WHERE AT LEAST 25 WERE KILLED
“This morning, we toured Rolling Fork alongside [Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.,] and [Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas],” Presley wrote on his campaign Twitter account.
“The devastation here is beyond belief, but the resolve and toughness of the citizens of this town is even stronger,” he continued. “#MississippiStrong.”
According to a person who was on the scene as part of the state’s official response, Presley “was not invited to the survey by the official organizers.”
“Local officials who were part of the response were confused and offended that he showed up to draw attention to himself,” the source said. “He appeared to be talking with Congressman Bennie Thompson most of the time, and was likely tipped off by him about a good chance for a photo op.”
“It was inappropriate, awkward and embarrassing for his campaign staff to be racing around catching photos while officials who are actually engaged in supporting Rolling Fork were trying to do their jobs,” the source continued, noting Reeves “had no campaign staff there, and neither did any of the invited officials.”
“The campaign staff identified themselves as a campaign official to a federal staffer who was bewildered why they were there,” the source added.
The source also told Fox News Digital the “visit was organized and led by the Governor’s Office” and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and that Presley and his staff “hung around the official press conference looking like he was trying to insert himself into that, until staff directed him and other bystanders to stand with the press.”
A spokesperson for the Republican Governors Association (RGA) blasted Presley for campaigning off the death and destruction of the tornadoes.
“At a time when the rest of the state has come together to focus on helping their neighbors, Brandon Presley is focused on his own political ambition,” the spokesperson said.
“He should be better than this,” they added.
Presley’s campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
The governor, meanwhile, has posted tornado recovery posts to his official Twitter account but has not posted anything to his Team Tate campaign account.
Help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the U.S. after a deadly tornado tore a path of destruction for more than an hour across a long swath of Mississippi, even as furious new storms Sunday struck across the Deep South.
At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through more than a half-dozen towns late Friday. A man was also killed in Alabama after his trailer home flipped over several times.
“Everything I can see is in some state of destruction,” said Jarrod Kunze, who drove to the hard-hit Mississippi town of Rolling Fork from his home in Alabama, ready to help “in whatever capacity I’m needed.”
Kunze was among volunteers working Sunday at a staging area, where bottled water and other supplies were being readied for distribution.
Search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced.
The storm hit so quickly that the sheriff’s department in Rolling Fork barely had time to set off sirens to warn the community of 2,000 residents, said Mayor Eldridge Walker.
“And by the time they initiated the siren, the storm had hit and it tore down the siren that’s located right over here,” Walker said, referring to an area just blocks from downtown.
The mayor said his town was devastated.