President Donald Trump on Tuesday deemed the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago “incredibly successful” even though a recent federal report found that nearly 3,000 people died. (Sept. 11)
WASHINGTON – Social media erupted in shock and outrage Thursday after President Donald Trump denied that Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico last year and said the death toll was a Democratic ploy to “make me look as bad as possible.”
Trump and his administration were criticized for a slow, ineffective response to the humanitarian crisis that Maria left in its wake. That criticism recently resurfaced after Puerto Rico’s official death toll from the storm was raised from 64 to 2,975 last month.
Trump’s continued insistence that his administration did an “unappreciated great job” in Puerto Rico, despite the new death toll, kept the debate alive.
Now, the president has questioned the findings of a detailed study commissioned by the Puerto Rico’s government and his claim that its conclusion was politically motivated was met with fast and furious condemnation on Twitter.
Democratic politicians were especially harsh in the denunciation of Trump’s tweets.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Trump’s tweets “shameful” and said the president owes “3,000 families in Puerto Rico an apology.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the deaths in Puerto Rico were the result of Trump’s “weak response, sad incompetence and utter neglect.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a Democrat who has frequently butted heads with Trump, tweeted, “Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT.”
But Democrats weren’t the only ones to disagree with Trump.
In Florida, which has a high number of Puerto Rican voters, Republicans worked to distance themselves from Trump’s comments.
“I disagree with @POTUS – an independent study said thousands were lost,” tweeted Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. “I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching.”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter that “even tragedy becomes political” in the current environment and he backed the finding that nearly 3,000 people died.
“Both Fed & local gov made mistakes,” he said. “We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes.”
Although he did not send a tweet, Florida’s Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis’ office released a statement saying the former congressman “doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”
Andrew Gillum, DeSantis’ Democratic opponent in Florida’s race for governor, said “our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better” from the president.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calf., called the tweet a “monstrous lie” and said it shows Trump did not learn from the mistakes made responding to Maria, putting “more Americans at risk.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned Trump’s remark into a get out the vote message for his state’s primary Thursday.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson blamed the news media for the entire affair.
But other conservatives were less understanding and some saw the tweets as an unforced error heading into the midterm elections.
And several celebrities weighed in as well.
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