Reality Check: Is President Trump’s Puerto Rico Tweet Accurate?

14 September, 2018, 06:04 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Resident Mirian Medina stands on her property about two weeks after Hurricane Maria swept through the island

Last year, as hurricanes Irma and Maria upended the lives of more than 3 million American citizens in Puerto Rico, mainland news sources, ours included, were reporting on Trump's tweets about NFL players not standing during the national anthem. He then parroted Trump talking points that the island wasn't in great shape, to begin with, and that it wasn't the federal government's fault they couldn't get resources to people. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths", he tweeted. "I trust that this process was carried out properly", he said. He is doubling down on his absurd and offensive suggestion that his response to Hurricane Maria previous year was "incredibly successful".

Other Republican members of Congress also reaffirmed, as Ryan did, their belief in the government-sanctioned study that showed a much higher number than originally reported. "What's going on is the president is doubting the death toll", Tapper schooled Urbin. That's actually lower than the estimate published by Harvard researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine - 4,645 - but it still puts Maria's death toll on a par with 9/11, whose 17th anniversary we just commemorated.

Maria hit a year ago as Trump was feeling positive about the handling of massive hurricanes in Florida and Texas and hoping to use those efforts to stem a tide of negative press. The revision was based on the findings of a George Washington University study.

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Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of Puerto Rico's capital San Juan and vocal critic of Trump, tweeted her dismay at his latest offensive. We are committed to the health of the population.

He also said that "the victims nor the people of Puerto Rico deserve to have their pain questioned".


Rubio also sent out a series of tweets explaining that the early response to Maria "wasn't good, but not because the Fed Govt. didn't care". Still, Trump was unwilling to admit that more needed to be done by the federal government. Previous reports from the Puerto Rican government estimated the number was closer to 1,400. Cruz had earlier described the federal disaster response in the United States territory a "despicable act of neglect". After the number was revised August 28, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement in which she did not actively dispute the revised figure.

"How stupid, how tone deaf, how surreal, how insensitive, how offensive, how offensive to the relatives of the 3,000 people who died in Puerto Rico!" she said passionately.

Today, I am thinking of all the Puerto Ricans I met in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last October ― strong-willed and determined to survive its destruction without knowing that what lay ahead were months of darkness, hunger, medical crises and calls for help left unanswered. "But we will be there, and it's just a matter of time", Cora said.

Trump's comments drew swift criticism from elected officials and residents of the island, where blackouts remain common, 60,000 homes still have makeshift roofs and 13 percent of municipalities lack stable phone or internet service.

Every time we switch our focus off the island itself and onto Trump's political rhetoric about the island, we do a disservice to the people of Puerto Rico. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican Trump ally in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat, has tried especially hard to make inroads with the Puerto Rican community, which traditionally leans Democratic.

Trump has previously said his administration's handling of the storms was "an incredible unsung success".

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