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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump tosses supplies at a relief center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 3, during his visit to view the damage and recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria struck the island.

President Donald Trump on Thursday falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, rejecting that government's assessment that the storm had claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

Trump said in a Twitter post that the toll was only six to 18 dead after his visit after the storm but that was at a time when the estimate of fatalities was changing. It rose to 34 in the hours after the president left the island. Trump said Thursday that Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. 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.

He continued, "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!"

The president's comments came as the government prepared for Hurricane Florence, whose high winds were already beginning to batter the coast of the Carolinas.

Puerto Rico's leadership and several leading Republicans in Congress took issue with the president disputing the estimated number of deaths on the island tied to Hurricane Maria.

"We strongly denounce anyone who would use this disaster or question our suffering for political purposes," said Gov. Ricardo Rosello. "I ask the president to recognize the magnitude of Hurricane Maria and continue working with my government to ensure a full recovery of the American citizens of Puerto Rico. We cannot allow the devastation of our citizens to be questioned and we cannot allow response efforts to be politicized."

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who publicly pleaded with Trump for a stronger response to the storm, also blasted the president.

"President Trump's statement, questioning the deaths in Puerto Rico, shows a lack of respect for our reality and our pain," she said in a statement. "He simply is unable to grasp the human suffering that his neglect and lack of sensibility have caused us. 3000 people died on his watch and his inability to grasp that makes him dangerous."

During a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., avoided directly criticizing Trump but said he had no reason to dispute the study's findings.

"This was a function of a devastating storm hitting an isolated island, and that is really no one's fault," Ryan said. "The casualties mounted for a long time, and I have no reason to dispute those numbers."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a retiring Miami Republican, said that no one should distort the truth of what happened in Puerto Rico. "It might be a new low," Ros-Lehtinen said of the president's false claim.

The death toll in Puerto Rico has changed since Trump's visit to the island last year. Fatalities from the storm had been officially recorded as 64 for nearly a year, despite convincing evidence that the figure was too low because official death certificates had failed to take into account the long-range impact of the storm.

In August, after a thorough review by George Washington University researchers, Puerto Rican officials accepted a revised estimate of the dead as 2,975.

The study looked at the number of deaths from September 2017 to February 2018 and compared that total with what would have been expected based on historical patterns. Researchers factored in many variables, including the departure of hundreds of thousands of island residents in the aftermath of Maria.

The analysis showed that the mortality rate spiked in the months after the storm, particularly in the poorest areas of Puerto Rico, and among elderly men.

The unusually high death rate never completely reached the normal level even after six months, the researchers found -- a sign of Puerto Rico's continued struggle to deal with the effects of the hurricane.

Lawmakers -- Republican and Democrat -- have accepted the study's findings.

"These days even tragedy becomes political," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a Twitter post Thursday. Rubio said 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico after the hurricane and said federal and local governments both made mistakes.

Since the storm, many Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida and are eligible to vote in the midterm elections, making support from the Puerto Rican diaspora even more critical in the state that is known for close races.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate against a longtime Democratic incumbent, disputed the president's assertions in a Twitter post Thursday.

"I disagree with @POTUS- an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rossello agreed," Scott wrote. "I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I'll continue to help PR."

The White House defended the president.

"As the President said, every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror. Before, during, and after the two massive hurricanes, the President directed the entire Administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico," said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley in a statement. "President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan Mayor who sadly, have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations."

Trump took to Twitter this week to warn residents in the path of Hurricane Florence to follow the advice of local officials and to be prepared. He also repeated his assessment that his team got high marks for the responses to hurricanes in 2017.

Trump has pushed back against criticism that his administration was slow to respond to Puerto Rico, where the distribution of supplies, gas and food lagged and power failures lasted for months, particularly compared with a swift response to an earlier hurricane, Harvey, that hit Texas. It was six days after Hurricane Maria hit the island before Trump pledged to go there, even as he traveled to Texas four days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

In July, the Federal Emergency Management Agency published a report, noting empty warehouses and not enough qualified workers in position to respond to the disaster. It did not include a fatality count, citing an ongoing review by the Puerto Rican government.

While Trump on Thursday accused the Democrats of "bad politics," Democratic lawmakers seized on the president's portrayal of the loss of life in Puerto Rico.

"You're right, Mr. President. The Hurricane didn't kill 3,000 people. Your botched response did," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said in a Twitter post.

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, of California, said in a tweet that the president "prefers his 'alternative facts' to the tragedy faced by families of the lost."

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., called for the president to resign.

"The fact that the President will not take responsibility for his administration's failures and will not even recognize that thousands have perished shows us, once again, that he is not fit to serve as our president," Thompson said in a statement.

Information for this article was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times; by John Wagner, Joel Achenbach, Mike Debonis and Sueng Min Kim of The Washington Post; and by Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press.

Photo by AP Photo/Carlos Giusti
Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz arrives at San Francisco hospital in Rio Piedras area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, as about 35 patients are evacuated after the failure of an electrical plant.

A Section on 09/14/2018

Print Headline: Trump says Puerto Rico toll from hurricane inflated by Democrats

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  • RBear
    September 14, 2018 at 6:32 a.m.

    I know the usual cast of Trump freaks will back the president and ignore the evidence. I spent some time last night reviewing the GWU study which has been accepted as the official death toll by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT and numerous other agencies and officials. The methodology is very sound and used three different models to cross-check the conclusions. The bottom line is that the lack of support by Trump's administration left American citizens in dire straits on an island that had been hit by two major storms in short succession.
    ...
    Trump's rush to claim success put him in this position and he's not one to take blame for ANYTHING. So what does he do? Lies about the facts and throws the blame back at Democrats, making it a partisan thing. At a time when he should just focus on Florence, he creates a major distraction about something from the past. Now, the scrutiny on FEMA's response to Florence will be at an all time high.

  • Nodmcm
    September 14, 2018 at 6:59 a.m.

    President Trump is a conservative, and there is a logic to his actions. Many conservatives are eugenicists, so they pay a lot of attention to human breeding and heritage. Puerto Rico has a population of people who are a mix of native and Spanish heritage. Spain is in southern Europe, so the Spanish people are NOT northern European, and are NOT Anglo-Saxons. President Trump's heritage is German and Scot, so he is Anglo-Saxon and northern European. In conservative ideology, Anglo-Saxon-northern European bloodlines are superior to southern European, or American Native, bloodlines. So President Trump was slow to help Puerto Rico after the hurricanes, and now denies their suffering and loss. President Trump's father was a Ku Klux Klansman, and arrested while marching with other Klansmen. The Ku Klux Klan along with Nazis are eugenicists. That's why they hate everyone who is not Anglo-Saxon or northern European. Read up on eugenics to better understand our President, and his Republican Party.

  • abb
    September 14, 2018 at 7:43 a.m.

    “George Washington University also counted those who died in the six months following the storm as a result of poor healthcare provision and a lack of electricity and clean water.”

    These numbers may be true. Most likely they are laughably fraudulent like the Harvard Study. What wasn't said by TDS liberals like RBear is that a a study like this has likely NEVER been done before in past hurricane aftermaths. If you change the method of calculation...

    You must change the past event to fit the new criteria, or post both.

    I guess they really don’t understand the difference between apples and oranges after all. Likely it was done ONLY to make Trump look bad.

    The original count of deaths from the right wing NEW YORK TIMES said 64 dead. That toll from the hurricane included only those who actually died from the hurricane. CAN’T HAVE THAT!!! NOPE! Lets do another "study" using "estimates"! Yeah, that's the ticket!

    Very likely it was done ONLY to make Trump look bad.

    Like Katrina, Puerto Rican hurricane relief was a product of local government failures. Democrat, socialists, liberal failures (which didn't happen in Houston BTW with EPIC flooding).

    The media also failed to report food and other relief supplies rotting in containers and warehouses because bumbling and corrupt Puerto Rican officials didn’t get them distributed. The Puerto Rican electrical system was also in shambles before the hurricane again due to corrupt and inept local government officials. Remember the mayor of San Juan lambasting Trump for not bringing enough aid while she was standing in front of pallets of supplies that were sitting in a warehouse? That was the same time that the GOV of PR said, "We are getting everything we need from the FEDS".

    As for the GWU "study" that RBEAR is stuck to like a tar baby:
    " Those involved with the study have emphasized that the 3,00 estimate(!) is not a conclusive number and further work should be done."

    Let me repeat that slowly for you libtards hoping to stick this to Trump:
    EVEN. THE. GWU. GROUP. ADMITS. THE . NUMBERS. ARE. ESTIMATES. AND. ARE. NOT. CONCLUSIVE.

    Fake news, friend. Find something else to yoddle about. No one with 2 working brain cells is buying this bunk. Show me the bodies and death certificates and I'll retract all and apologize. Until then 64 died from the hurricane. Everything else after that, blame the local government and socialist unions who went on strike. Fake news. Lies. #walkaway.

  • hah406
    September 14, 2018 at 7:57 a.m.

    ABB you are as ignorant as you are ugly. You have no concept of scientific study, and you malign GWU as having some partisan bent to the study. Facts are, if you died because you didn't have electricity or access to healthcare or clean water after the storm, you died because of the storm. Katrina was counted the same way. It doesn't necessarily reflect on a lack of effort by Trump, except the Orange Lord's ego keeps getting in the way. Dems had nothing to do with it, and it would be a non-story if you and Trump would just STFU.

  • Nodmcm
    September 14, 2018 at 7:59 a.m.

    So what you see with conservatives, who are also eugenicists, is that they assume and accuse those WITHOUT Anglo-Saxon or northern European heritage, such as Puerto Ricans, of being inferior in many ways, including having "corrupt and inept local government officials" and "socialist unions." Socialists, by the way, DO NOT consider human bloodlines or heritage to be relevant at all in any consideration of human beings' relative merit or value, so socialists are diametrically opposed to ultra-conservatives like Ku Klux Klan or Nazis. Note that conservatives always deny or minimize the suffering of non-Anglo-Saxons and non-northern European, like Puerto Ricans involved in this tragedy. Note that these observations are borne out in the comment above.

  • RBear
    September 14, 2018 at 8:04 a.m.

    abb I refer to Hah's comments. You are so out of your league on this you're stumbling over your own "arguments." With regards to deaths after the storm, you say "Most likely they are laughably fraudulent..." Really? As Hah stated, that was the methodology used in Katrina and in many other storms. It's widely accepted as a method to count fatalities from the impacts of storms. BTW, you do understand they use a baseline to factor out the normal death rate from what would be considered storm related.
    ...
    What's even worse is how you attempt to blame PR for their problems, discounting the fact they are a US territory and entitled to the same protection as the states are. With regards to further work, the point being made is this HELPS improve future responses to disasters. You were a part of the military. Isn't that what the military did in the wake of any exercise? Maybe you were a part they were pushing out because of backward thinking.
    ...
    Just face it. You are a crazy, unstable old woman who can't even get a coherent thought out. You lie constantly. You threaten people with 2A constantly. You act like you crawl out of a Cold War bunker daily. My guess is your family accepts you as the crazy old lady you are and keeps a distance.

  • PopMom
    September 14, 2018 at 8:21 a.m.

    RBear,

    Please let's not be ageist or sexist. Yes, I know that I am hypocritical as I have called GenMAC a racist old man. We all should be better about classifying people by age. One guy in my yoga class who is 68 is in better shape than most teenagers.

  • ARMNAR
    September 14, 2018 at 8:24 a.m.

    She still thinks "#walkaway" is happening.

    Delusional.

  • RBear
    September 14, 2018 at 8:29 a.m.

    Fair point, PM. Just getting tired of abb's CONSTANT ignorance on issues. I sometimes feel like we're having to deal with other issues at the time. But that's for others to consider, not us.

  • Nodmcm
    September 14, 2018 at 8:29 a.m.

    Note that PopMom advises against classifying people based on immutable characteristics such as age, and I bet she would also recommend against classifying people based on their racial or ethnic heritage or bloodline. This is how liberal, progressive people see others. They do not judge others based on how others were born, or based on characteristics beyond a person's control, such as age or disability. Conservatives do blame and make fun of people who are unattractive (born that way), have dark skin tone (born that way), have a disability like cerebral palsy (born that way). Liberals, and most particularly socialists, believe in total equality, even among the genders (born that way), races (born that way), and various age groups (no one can avoid aging). Do you blame people for traits they possessed the day they were born? Do you blame people for getting old?

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