White House Defends Trump on Puerto Rico Death Toll Claim

Andrew Caballero  AFP  Getty ImagesA large rain cloud passes over a day before the arrival of hurricane Florence in Wilmington N.C. on Sept. 12 2018

President Trump denied the death toll of almost 3,000 from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which swept across Puerto Rico a year ago, in a series of tweets Thursday morning.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", Trump tweeted, referring to a recent study that significantly expanded the United States government's initial assessment that 64 people died when Hurricane Maria battered the island last September. "Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3,000".

President Donald Trump's earlier remarks challenging one report's estimate on Puerto Rico deaths from Hurricane Maria were taken to task by the Late Show's Stephen Colbert and the Daily Show's Trevor Noah.

It was conducted by the nonpartisan George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health. You should never be content with everything we did.

Even a few of Mr Trump's fellow Republicans have spoken out against him.

The president tweeted on Thursday as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas. "It was devastating. It was a awful storm". Not only because it seemed indifferent to Puerto Rican suffering, but also because it is demonstrably false.

The president ignited controversy when he tweeted that the approximate 3,000 death toll was inflated by Democrats.

Another study carried out by Harvard University and published in May estimated the death toll from the hurricane and its aftermath could have been higher than 4,600. "Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!".

"I just think if we can keep politics out of it, help those people who are suffering, I just think that's a better response".

If the new figures are accurate, Hurricane Maria is the deadliest storm to have hit Puerto Rico since the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz was a particularly aggressive critic of Trump in the days and weeks following the hurricane; her response to Trump's tweet today was no different.

Gutierrez conceded that "the massive power of the storm was compounded by decades of neglect from Washington", which he said "didn't happen overnight and didn't happen on President Trump's watch".

Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello said "now is not the time to pass judgment; it is time to channel every effort to improve the lives of over 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico".

"What is offensive to many of us is that even though the president dropped the ball, he is now doing a victory dance in the end zone".

Instead, he argued, without providing evidence, that the death toll was a Democratic claim to make him look bad.

"The US government's response in Puerto Rico fell far, and tragically, short".

Stewart was being interviewed Wednesday about Trump's earlier statements that his administration's handling of the hurricane that hit the US territory was "an incredible, unsung success" and "one of the best jobs that's ever been done". He added: "Casualties don't make a person look bad".

"I disagree with @POTUS", Scott tweeted.

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