Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Denounces Trump's Denial of Puerto Rico's Heightened Death Toll

Clay Curtis
September 15, 2018

Breaking from presidential tradition, Trump continued to use the Category 4 hurricane barreling toward the coast as an occasion to high-five himself for his administration's response to the hurricane that slammed Puerto Rico last season.

President Trump's tweet this week, asserting that Democrats highlighted the death toll of almost 3,000 to make him look bad, stunned lawmakers - including Republicans.

The study - done by the school's Milken Institute of Public Health - reported that the deaths occurred between September of last year and February of this year.

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert also chose to discuss Trump's hurricane assertion after talking about the impending Hurricane Florence.

'If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.

Largely due to decades of neglect and years of fiscal crisis, the Puerto Rican electrical grid collapsed into the United States' longest-ever blackout after Maria hit on September 20, 2017.

One frequent tactic is claiming ignorance: "I haven't read it yet", said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Trump's tweet as he walked away from reporters.

The comedian said Trump should be more focused on the threat of Hurricane Florence at the moment.

August 28, the government of Puerto Rico officially announced the death toll from Hurricane Maria as 2,975 making it the most severe natural disaster in the island's history. He went on to accuse Democrats of inflating the numbers to make him look bad.

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When Trump visited in October 2017, two weeks after the storm hit, the death toll at the time was indeed 16 people.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló also responded to the tweets, telling CNN "there is no reason to doubt the validity of these studies, there is no reason to expect that, even though it is an estimate, that it's not far away from the accurate toll should be".

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who is being challenged by Scott in November, called Trump's comments "shameful".

Trump bristled at criticism of his administration's handling of the Puerto Rico disaster as Hurricane Florence approached the coast of North Carolina bringing heavy rains that forecasters warn could cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the U.S. southeast. The number was later raised to 64, but the government then commissioned an independent study to determine how many died because of post-storm conditions.

It was that number on which Puerto Rican authorities based their official tally.

In fact, the 2,975 estimate comes from an exhaustive George Washington University analysis of fatalities on the island that included people who died for lack of medical care, for example, because so much of Puerto Rico remained without electricity for many months.

FEMA officials confirmed that the agency's efforts to deploy more resources early are intentional, noting that increased pre-storm preparation were among the agency's recommendations in its assessment of its performance during hurricane season previous year. But Puerto Rican officials doubled the death toll to 34 later that day.

Politicians and media on both sides of the political divide have criticized Trump's comments.

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