Hours after the first reported deaths from now tropical storm Florence were reported, the country’s commander in chief seemed to have other things on his mind. Friday night, President Donald Trump once again took to Twitter to question the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria. Over the course of two tweets, the president doubled down on his doubts about the estimated death toll, although this time he didn’t directly blame Democrats.
In a pair of Friday night tweets, Trump questioned how the estimated death toll in Puerto Rico soared without a satisfactory explanation. He cited a Washington Post article that noted officials in Puerto Rico had told Trump at least 16 people had died in Hurricane Maria. “This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE,” Trump wrote. “Then, like magic, ‘3000 PEOPLE KILLED.’”
The president then slammed a report by George Washington University estimating that 2,975 people died as a result of the storm. “FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER - NO WAY!” wrote Trump.
The president quickly got a response from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who wrote on Twitter that he would be happy to walk him “through the scientific process of the study.” But at the same time, Rossello noted “there is no reason to underscore the tragedy we have suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.” The governor added that he hoped the president would “consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the US Citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones.”
Earlier in the week, George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health defended its estimate. “We stand by the science underlying our study which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria,” reads the statement. “We are confident that the number — 2,975 — is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date.”
That defense came after Trump blamed Democrats for the estimate, characterizing it as part of an effort to make him “look as bad as possible” even though he had been “raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”
Following that tweet, Sen. Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter that Trump owed an apology to “3,000 families in Puerto Rico” and called on the president to “stop the shameful attack on deceased fellow Americans and focus on the response to Hurricane Florence.”