Trump Falsely Claims Revised Puerto Rico Death Toll Is Fake News

Christopher Davidson
September 16, 2018

"To be tweeting about 3,000's actually disrespectful for my country", said Cora (via ESPN), a Puerto Rico native whose family was on the island as the storm hit.

Building on comments he made earlier in the week in which he said "3,000 people did not die", the President on Saturday said the number appeared "like magic" and there was "no way" it could be accurate. Many people would be without power and essentials like food, water, and medicine for months after the storm, contributing to the high death toll.

Trump said the number of deaths when he visited Puerto Rico after the storm was "from 6 to 18", even though news outlets were already reporting dozens, if not hundreds, of additional casualties that were likely uncounted.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Puerto Rico's official death toll from Maria, which the territorial government dramatically increased to 2,975 in August after commissioning a study by George Washington University.

The study found that those deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year.

Stephen Colbert of The Late Show began his nightly monologue by demonizing POTUS' lack of response to Hurricane Florence, a superstorm now working its way through the Carolinas and his hyper focus on Maria, a storm that took place nearly a year ago. Then came Maria and devastation in Puerto Rico, where a slow federal response was complicated by logistical concerns and preexisting economic and infrastructure deficiencies on the island territory.

However, that figure wasn't good enough for U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Santos-Vasquez said the president's numbers are wrong. In addition to this, the administrator of Puerto Rico's General Services Administration, Ottmar Chávez, in a statement said that Puerto Rico authorities had been given the approval to taking into custody the distribution of the 700 pallets of water among the local residents. But we've been battling through it.

"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them on to the list", he tweeted.

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.

"I don't think that's fair", said Huntsman, who added she also didn't think it was fair to compare Trump's action's to those of a dictator, something that was mentioned on the previous day's show. Both have made outreach to Florida's growing Puerto Rican population a focus of their campaigns.

Trump maintained as recently as Tuesday that his response to the storm was an "incredible unsung success".

Throughout his presidency, Trump has struggled to publicly express empathy at times of national crises, sparking outrage during his post-Maria visit when he feuded with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and tossed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets.

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