Trump denies 3,000 Puerto Ricans died due to Hurricane Maria, blames Democrats
“When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.” Trump wrote on Twitter.
While the storm was directly and immediately responsible for a smaller number of deaths, an independent report placed the number of deaths blamed on the hurricane at 3,000. That includes deaths as a result of infrastructure failures that came as a result of the hurricane.
WATCH: Soon after President Trump blamed Democrats for the revised death toll estimate in Puerto Rico, Senator Richard Blumenthal said it was “beyond ridiculous.”
He also said the Democrats were “trying to make [him] look bad” by reporting the high numbers of deaths.
“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he wrote.
The report was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government and compiled by researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, slammed Trump for the comments almost immediately.
“This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch,” Carmen Yulin Cruz said on Twitter. “YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!”
She also said Trump was trying to bully Puerto Rico with his tweets and called him “delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality.”
“Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT,” she wrote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan also rejected Trump’s assertion saying he has “no reason to dispute” the study. Ryan denies the figure reflects poorly on Trump, saying, “casualties don’t make a person look bad.”
Democratic Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez said Trump is “dead wrong” for claiming the death toll wasn’t 3,000 and that the federal government’s response was a success.
Gutierrez said, “Even though the president dropped the ball he is now doing a victory dance in the end zone. Or should we call it the dead zone?”
Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017, about two weeks after Hurricane Irma hit the island.
Trump visited the island on Oct. 3, when the death toll was listed at 16, and he congratulated the island on avoiding “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”
But just after he left Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello updated the death toll to 34, nearly doubling it, saying 19 people died as a direct result of the storm and the others died as an indirect result.
As the days went by, the death toll kept increasing, eventually reaching 64.
WATCH: Archived news coverage of Hurricane Maria
In mid-August, the island dramatically upped that number to 1,400 people, saying the additional deaths resulted from the effects of a storm that led to a “cascading failures” in infrastructure across the island of 3.3 million people. (Maria devastated the island’s power grid and roads, making delivering help to those in need very difficult.)
Later in August, the aforementioned independent report put the death toll of the 2017 storm at nearly 3,000 people — most of whom died after the storm due to complications from widespread power outages and water shortages. Rossello officially updated the island’s death toll with the new information.
But Trump has continued to praise his own government’s response to the disaster in Puerto Rico.
On Tuesday, when asked if there were lessons to be learned from the 2017 storm ahead of this year’s hurricane season, Trump called the response to Maria “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
“The job that FEMA, and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous,” Trump added. “I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”
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