President Trump came under fire on Thursday ahead of Hurricane Florence slamming into the East Coast, after he accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from last year’s hurricanes in Puerto Rico in order “to make me look bad.” 

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted. “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!

Trump’s tweets dispute an independent report by George Washington University, commissioned by Puerto Rico officials, which raised the official death toll from 64 to 2,975

The George Washington University study comes as the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria approaches on Sept. 20, and Congress considers the island government’s request for federal aid to rebuild from the storm.

But where did the massive revision come from, and how were the nearly three thousand people missed the first time around? In one word, statistics, according to the Wall Street Journal

The George Washington University researchers estimated the number of excess deaths by analyzing death certificates and other mortality data, and comparing the number of deaths during the designated period to past mortality patterns. They calculated the total number of deaths in the period was 22% higher than the number of fatalities that would have been expected, the researchers said. –WSJ

Trump’s comments have ignited a firestorm of commentary over Twitter, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who accused Trump of minimizing Puerto Rico’s plight. 

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello also pushed back against Trump’s claims in a Thursday statement over Facebook.

“Puerto Rico’s victims shouldn’t have their pain questioned. Today I saw how the number of victims was questioned along with the process of excess deaths,” said Rossello, adding “I ask the president of the United States for all agencies to invest the necessary resources to keep working in favor of the people of Puerto Rico.

Trump has repeatedly argued that his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria was a success, while Cruz – after initially complimenting the response, broke down during a press conference for more help – describing the situation as “something akin to genocide” before accusing Trump of treating Puerto Ricans like “animals.”

“So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States…If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”

Trump fired back, tweeting: “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump”…

In a string of retweets,Trump also shared this Department of Defense video of FEMA workers and national guardsmen distributing food and water to desperate Puerto Ricans. It also showed the stockpiles of supplies that have been sent to the island by the military.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Florence has weakened from a Category 3 to a Category 2, however it is still expected to cause widespread property damage and flooding. 

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