This morning Trump pushed back on the notion that 3,000 people died after hurricanes hammered Puerto Rico last year.
In short, he doesn’t believe it:
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……..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!
Here’s the tweets:
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...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
.....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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Trump isn’t wrong about the numbers skyrocketing after many months – almost a year, really.
About two weeks ago, at the end of August, CNN wrote an article describing how the death toll went from low double digits to almost 3,000:
Puerto Rico’s true death toll from Hurricane Maria remains elusive as the storm’s one-year anniversary approaches.
The island government raised the official death toll to 2,975 on Tuesday after maintaining for months that 64 people had died as a result of the storm.
But the higher figure, based on the findings of researchers from George Washington University in a study commissioned by the US commonwealth’s government, is only an approximation, not a concrete list of names, according to Gov. Ricardo Rossello.
“This number can change,” Rossello said. “It could be less, it could be more, as time passes.”
Here’s how the official death toll has changed since the storm touched down September 20 as a Category 4 hurricane:
In the chaos after the storm, the island’s public safety director, Héctor M. Pesquera, said at least six people were killed.
Rossello told CNN two days after the storm hit that 13 people had died in the storm. That figure was based on reports from mayors on the island, but law enforcement authorities hadn’t confirmed the total, the government said.
Nearly two weeks after Maria, President Donald Trump touched down for the first time and downplayed the devastation.
“Every death is a horror,” Trump said in early October before comparing Puerto Rico’s official death toll of 16 at the time to “a real catastrophe, like Katrina,” in which more than 1,800 people perished from the 2005 storm that ravaged New Orleans.
After Trump departed, the governor announced the death toll had risen to 34.
One of the conclusions of the George Washington University study was that officials did nothing to respond to public criticism and concerns about political motivations that surged when the official tally jumped to 34 shortly after Trump’s visit.
In November, CNN reporters surveyed 112 funeral homes across the island, about half the total. They found that funeral home directors identified 499 deaths considered to be hurricane-related.
In December, public safety officials revised the official count to 64, adding some fatalities newly certified as indirect deaths related to the storm.
For instance, emergency personnel were unable to reach the home of a man who collapsed during the storm. Doctors had classified his death as natural, and it was not initially considered a storm-related death.
Other deaths later determined to be indirectly caused by the storm included a case of exposure to carbon monoxide, a suicide, a person run over by his own vehicle and a death from complications following a fall.
Also in December, The New York Times estimated 1,052 “excess deaths” occurred after Maria. Other media produced similar estimates.
In May, a team that included researchers from Harvard University published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimating 793 to 8,498 people died in Maria’s wake, a range that some academics have criticized as overly broad.
The study’s midpoint estimate — 4,645 deaths — became a rallying cry for activists upset by what they see as a lack of accountability for the scale of the catastrophe by officials in Puerto Rico and the United States.
A research letter published this month in the medical journal JAMA estimated that between 1,006 and 1,272 people died in connection to the storm.
The Puerto Rican government on August 8 quietly admitted the official toll was higher than its December tally.
In a report to Congress, the government said documents show that 1,427 more deaths occurred in the four months after the storm than “normal,” compared with deaths that occurred the previous four years.
The 1,427 figure also appeared in a draft of the report — “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation” — which was published and opened for public comment July 9.
The revised figure was first “revealed” by the Puerto Rico government, according to the final report, on June 13, one day after officials were forced by a judge to release death records that CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo in Puerto Rico had sued to make public.
But officials at the time stopped short of updating the official death toll.
Even CNN admits the actual number is ‘elusive’. And honestly, it does seem like fuzzy math was used to get the death toll to where it is now, as the numbers were all over the place.
So I can understand Trump’s doubts about the actual number dead. He doesn’t suggest what he thinks the death toll might be, but he clearly isn’t buying the near 3,000 number.