Trump Claims Hurricane Maria Death Toll Was Made Up By Democrats

A widely accepted death toll for the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico last year is 2,965, according to the Associated Press. President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to claim, without evidence, that the death toll was false.

The president claimed that the high death toll was “done by the Democrats to make me look as bad as possible.” The study that released the 2,965 statistic was an independent study done by George Washington University and commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor.

Trump claimed that any person that died “for any reason, like old age” was added to the list. The study doesn’t say that the almost 3,000 people died in the hurricane directly, but rather that lack of medical care, power, water, and resources directly linked to the storm’s destruction. The number considers the excess amount of death between September 2017 and February 2018, which was 22 percent higher than normal for Puerto Rico.

According to Buzzfeed News, the destruction was prevalent when Trump arrived on the island:

“A BuzzFeed News analysis of data eventually released by Puerto Rico showed that by Oct. 4, the day Trump visited Puerto Rico, 550 more people had died than what was normal in those two weeks the year before.”

Other studies looking into Hurricane Maria’s destruction also put the death toll in four figures. A Harvard study estimated 5,740 deaths while a University of Pennsylvania study estimated 1,200 deaths.

However, the George Washington study is the most widely accepted and is acknowledged by Puerto Rico’s governor.

Earlier this week, Trump said that the response to Hurricane Maria was an “unsung success.”

“The missing part was empathy,” Thomas Bossert, the president’s former homeland security adviser, told the New York Times on Wednesday after Trump’s controversial comment. “I wish he’d paused and expressed that, instead of just focusing on the response success.”

Bossert continued, acknowledging the death toll “The people that died — thousands of people — it’s terrible, but it’s always difficult to talk about the causality of that death.”

Trump’s tweets come as Southeast states prepare for Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall later this week.

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